This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary
The trees of the mind are black. The light is blue.
The grasses unload their griefs on my feet as if I were God
Prickling my ankles and murmuring of their humility
Fumy, spiritous mists inhabit this place.
Separated from my house by a row of headstones.
I simply cannot see where there is to get to.

The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right,
White as a knuckle and terribly upset.
It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet
With the O-gape of complete despair. I live here.
Twice on Sunday, the bells startle the sky —-
Eight great tongues affirming the Resurrection
At the end, they soberly bong out their names.

The yew tree points up, it has a Gothic shape.
The eyes lift after it and find the moon.
The moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary.
Her blue garments unloose small bats and owls.
How I would like to believe in tenderness —-
The face of the effigy, gentled by candles,
Bending, on me in particular, its mild eyes.

I have fallen a long way. Clouds are flowering
Blue and mystical over the face of the stars
Inside the church, the saints will all be blue,
Floating on their delicate feet over the cold pews,
Their hands and faces stiff with holiness.
The moon sees nothing of this. She is bald and wild.
And the message of the yew tree is blackness — blackness and silence

Analysis, meaning and summary of Sylvia Plath's poem The Moon And The Yew Tree


  1. abs says:

    how can this poem in a way be related to her poem “Mirror” ? pliz help

  2. Emile Moelich says:

    Sylvia was a keen observer of nature.

  3. patricia murphy says:

    I believe all comments so far are right on the money-this poem is full of symbolism-i do believe she was talking about her state of mind at the time-and also her confusion within herself about religion & many other things-the moon could represent her own mother-or even herself-or her perception of herself-i do believe the yew tree represented the male figures in her life-beautiful-yet deceptive/w/poison-wise/or even her male side of her own personality

  4. Megan says:

    I’m currently working on this piece for college Lit. class and I’m specifically looking for archetypal imagery. The more I read this poem and think of the symbolism I get the feeling as if the poem is an idea of feeling unable to connect with a Christian religion–catholic, from the references to the saints and Mary. She says the saints float above the cold pews, stiff with holiness–they seem unsubstantial, they can float, stiff with lack of feeling or expression, and cold pews are empty pews. She cannot believe in the tenderness of Mary. Yet, she claims the moon, an ancient goddess symbol, fertility, purity, ritual, as her mother. The moon is wild, it is cold, it releases traditionally frightful nocturnal animals, yet she claims it as her own. Yew trees are traditionally associated with pagan religions, as many trees have been. In addition, yew trees were often planted near graveyards, due to their poisonous nature, in order to keep animals from digging. It is almost as if this sturdy, ancient, protective though murderous tree points to the nature and mother that the narrator feels has always been and is the only one who will always be.

  5. Murielle says:

    To me, this poem simply represent herself at one state of her life. By the images, the form and and the nightscape of the poem, we have an impression of immobolity, like a frozen picture in which the personna is forced to live but “simply cannot see where there is to get to”. It is complete isolation. The elements around her simply ignore her. This poem is roughly an image of her state of mind at that period of time, a mindscape. This seems to be the general idea of the poem. But it also has allusions to Robert Grave’s poem, “The white Goddess” which was the sublime poetic muse, represented as a female figure symbolyzed by three phases: new (virgin huntress associated with water and white), full (pregnatn mother associated with colour reed), and waning (the wild hag asociated with black), like the moon, associated with Diana the goddess of hunt and chastity… Plath and Hughes really admired this poet so I think there is some kind of inspiration. It was also written “on a dare”, Hughes told Sylvia to write about the graveyard by which their house was. The moon is definetely Plath’s mother but the Yew tree’s identity is not very clear. it would be logical that it is her father as the title “the moon and the yew tree” involves some kind of interaction between the two. There is also “the yew tree points up” which can mean that it is directed to the moon, but there is no real evidence as who it represents.
    By the way, I’m a french student (17 years old) and I’m graduating this year with an optional part which is English Literature and english history and geography. I’m studying Sylvia Plath right now. It’s reall hard !!!

  6. Daphne says:

    No, this poem is about her mother. Just like Medusa. She states it explicitly, “The moon is my mother.” “She is not sweet like Mary” is a connection with Medusa, where she calls her mother “Blubbering Mary”. It is quite obvious.

  7. Dave McNutt says:

    My suspicion is that the moon represents Plath, and the Yew her husband, Ted Hughes.
    Marry the first stanza with the fourth, and we can see a double caesura: ” I simply … ” “I have fallen…”
    The interior stanzas are descriptions of the characters involved, wild or dark.

  8. Danielle Jesserer says:

    To reply to the previous comments, Sylvia Plath was a confessional poet. This poem was completed shortly before her death (a suicide), during a period in which she obsessed with the concept of her own death, as well as madness. I am fairly sure that this poem is about her own battle with depression/mental illness (she was never diagnosed with a particular mental ailment). It’s a beautiful, haunting piece nonetheless.

  9. Jereme says:

    I beleive it to be for the dead or a keeper of the dead. Refers to outside halloween scene, then inside the church.

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