'Last Words' by Sylvia Plath
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The Collected Poems1961I do not want a plain box, I want a sarcophagus
With tigery stripes, and a face on it
Round as the moon, to stare up.
I want to be looking at them when they come
Picking among the dumb minerals, the roots.
I see them already -- the pale, star-distance faces.
Now they are nothing, they are not even babies.
I imagine them without fathers or mothers, like the first gods.
They will wonder if I was important.
I should sugar and preserve my days like fruit!
My mirror is clouding over --
A few more breaths, and it will reflect nothing at all.
The flowers and the faces whiten to a sheet.I do not trust the spirit. It escapes like steam
In dreams, through mouth-hole or eye-hole. I can't stop it.
One day it won't come back. Things aren't like that.
They stay, their little particular lusters
Warmed by much handling. They almost purr.
When the soles of my feet grow cold,
The blue eye of my tortoise will comfort me.
Let me have my copper cooking pots, let my rouge pots
Bloom about me like night flowers, with a good smell.
They will roll me up in bandages, they will store my heart
Under my feet in a neat parcel.
I shall hardly know myself. It will be dark,
And the shine of these small things sweeter than the face of Ishtar.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Last Words by Sylvia Plath: A Reflection on Mortality and the Human Condition
Sylvia Plath's "Last Words" is a haunting poem that explores the nature of mortality and the human condition. In this 28-line poem, Plath delves deep into her own psyche, reflecting on her own impending death and the futility of life. Plath's words are beautifully crafted, with each line carrying a weight that is both powerful and poignant.
A Brief Summary of the Poem
"Last Words" begins with Plath reflecting on the inevitability of death and the knowledge that it is coming for her. She states that "the end is near", and that she can feel it creeping up on her. Plath then goes on to describe the world around her, painting a picture of a beautiful, but ultimately fleeting existence.
Plath compares life to a "fleeting dream", and speaks of the "crashing waves" that represent the passing of time. She speaks of the "endless sea" that surrounds us all, a metaphor for the infinite expanse of the universe, and the smallness of human life in comparison.
The poem then takes a turn, as Plath reflects on the futility of existence, stating that "nothing lasts". She speaks of the impermanence of all things, from the "fragile flowers" to the "mighty oak", and of the inevitability of decay and death.
Plath ends the poem with a powerful statement, declaring that "only death is eternal". This final line serves as a reminder of the fragility of life, and the inevitability of our own mortality.
Interpretation and Analysis
"Last Words" is a poem that is rich with meaning and symbolism. At its core, it is a reflection on mortality and the human condition, and the ways in which we come to terms with the inevitability of our own death.
Plath's use of metaphors throughout the poem is particularly powerful. The crashing waves that she speaks of are a symbol of the passing of time, and the relentless march towards death. Similarly, the endless sea represents the vastness of the universe, and the smallness of humanity in comparison.
The fragility of life is also a central theme of the poem. Plath speaks of the "fragile flowers" and the "mighty oak", both of which are eventually brought down by time and decay. This serves as a reminder of the transience of all things, and the inevitability of our own demise.
Perhaps the most powerful line of the poem is its final one: "only death is eternal". This line serves as a reminder that, no matter how much we may try to prolong our lives, death is the only constant in the universe. It is a reminder that we are all ultimately mortal, and that our time on this earth is limited.
The Importance of Sylvia Plath's Work
Sylvia Plath is widely regarded as one of the most important poets of the 20th century, and her work continues to influence and inspire writers today. Plath's writing was deeply personal, and often dealt with themes of mental illness, gender, and mortality.
"Last Words" is a particularly powerful example of Plath's work, and serves as a reminder of her talents as a poet. The poem is beautifully crafted, with each line carrying a weight that is both powerful and poignant. Plath's use of metaphors and symbolism is particularly effective, and serves to underscore the poem's central themes.
Overall, Sylvia Plath's "Last Words" is a haunting and powerful poem that explores the nature of mortality and the human condition. Through her use of metaphors and symbolism, Plath creates a vivid portrait of the fragility of life, and the ways in which we come to terms with our own mortality. The poem serves as a reminder of the importance of Plath's work, and her enduring legacy as one of the most important poets of the 20th century.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry Last Words: An Analysis of Sylvia Plath's Masterpiece
Sylvia Plath's Poetry Last Words is a masterpiece of modern poetry that has captivated readers for decades. The poem is a haunting reflection on the nature of death and the human experience, and it is a testament to Plath's skill as a poet that she is able to convey such complex emotions in such a concise and powerful way. In this article, we will delve into the meaning and significance of Poetry Last Words, exploring the themes and imagery that make it such a powerful work of art.
The poem opens with the lines "I do not want a plain box, I want a sarcophagus / With tigery stripes, and a face on it / Round as the moon, to stare up." These lines immediately set the tone for the rest of the poem, as Plath expresses her desire for a grand and elaborate burial. The use of the word "sarcophagus" is particularly striking, as it conjures up images of ancient Egyptian tombs and the grandeur and mystery that surrounds them. Plath's desire for a "face on it / Round as the moon" is also significant, as it suggests a desire for immortality and a lasting legacy.
As the poem continues, Plath explores the idea of death and the afterlife. She writes, "I want to be looking at them when they come / Stammering to see my face / Blanched, blanched with mortality." Here, Plath seems to be expressing a desire to witness the reactions of those who come to mourn her passing. The use of the word "blanched" suggests a sense of shock or horror, as if the mourners are unable to comprehend the reality of death. Plath's desire to witness this reaction is both eerie and poignant, as it speaks to the human desire for connection and understanding even in the face of death.
Throughout the poem, Plath uses vivid and evocative imagery to convey her emotions. She writes, "I want to sleep for a while, a while, a minute, a century / But all right, let me tell you what I do when I sleep." This passage is particularly striking, as it suggests a desire for rest and peace, but also a sense of restlessness and unease. The repetition of the word "a while" emphasizes the fleeting nature of life, while the contrast between "a minute" and "a century" speaks to the paradoxical nature of time. Plath's desire to share what she does when she sleeps is also significant, as it suggests a desire to connect with others even in death.
As the poem continues, Plath explores the idea of memory and legacy. She writes, "I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions. / Whatever I see I swallow immediately / Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike." Here, Plath seems to be expressing a desire for honesty and clarity in her legacy. The use of the word "silver" suggests a sense of purity and clarity, while the phrase "unmisted by love or dislike" emphasizes the importance of objectivity and truth. Plath's desire to be remembered in this way is both admirable and poignant, as it speaks to the human desire for honesty and integrity even in death.
Throughout the poem, Plath also explores the idea of identity and self. She writes, "I am not cruel, only truthful / The eye of a little god, four-cornered." Here, Plath seems to be expressing a sense of detachment from her own identity. The use of the phrase "the eye of a little god" suggests a sense of omnipotence and detachment, while the phrase "four-cornered" emphasizes the idea of boundaries and limitations. Plath's desire to distance herself from her own identity is both intriguing and unsettling, as it speaks to the complex nature of the human psyche.
In conclusion, Sylvia Plath's Poetry Last Words is a masterpiece of modern poetry that explores the themes of death, memory, and identity in a powerful and evocative way. Through her use of vivid imagery and poignant language, Plath is able to convey the complex emotions and desires that surround the human experience of death. Whether read as a reflection on Plath's own life and struggles, or as a universal meditation on the nature of existence, Poetry Last Words is a work of art that will continue to captivate readers for generations to come.
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