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Written by Connie Skibinski, Elizabeth Shaw
"Stasis in darkness"
In just three words, Plath perfectly conveys the initial pace of the poem. A sense of serene stillness is conveyed. 'Stasis' suggests a world devoid of movement, while 'darkness' indicates an absolute absence of life. This still pace is also representative of the persona's innocence and youth. This pace is then immediately undercut by the sense of movement and momentum throughout the rest of the poem. By comparing the motion of the horse to a state of motionlessness ("stasis"), the frantic nature of the horse ride is emphasized. Furthermore, the 'stasis' and 'darkness' are a metaphor for the state of everyday, boring reality that the rider yearns to escape from. It is interesting that Plath began the poem with an image of absence, rather than action. This encourages the reader to continue reading, to find out what the poem is about.
"How one we grow, pivot of heels and knees!"
This is the first line which indicates the relationship between the horse and rider. It illustrates a close connection between and human and animal, to the extent that they become one, "How one we grow". This hyperbole emphasizes the interconnectedness between the persona and the horse, a key concern throughout the poem. This 'oneness' is further shown as the rider's movements mirror the motion of the horse, the "pivot of heels and knees". Assonance is used here to further the sense of speed, and is a literary device that Plath uses throughout the poem to achieve this effect. In this way, the quote perfectly captures the sense of chaos and rapid speed that characterizes the poem.
"Something else hauls me through the air"
This quote is significant as it presents the horse-riding experience as both frightening and exciting. The passive clause shows that the rider is being acted upon by an external force, and therefore not in control of the situation. This suggests fear and powerlessness. The strong verb "hauls" also suggests a frightening experience, but can also be interpreted as exhilarating and frightening. Plath is deliberately ambiguous about the tone of lines such as this, which seem to blend terror with frenzied ecstasy. This quote also represents poetic inspiration, as the "something else" is a metaphor for the driving force of creativity. Plath often reflects upon the power and importance of poetry in her works.
"I unpeel dead hands, dead stringencies"
This quote represents the turning point of the poem. It is here that the speaker begins to develop a sense of power and control. The active clause "I unpeel" presents the rider as authoritative. Furthermore, the "dead hands, dead stringencies" are a powerful metaphor for the restrictions of human mortality. By shedding her mortal forms, the rider is able to transcend everyday reality and experience enlightenment and freedom.
"I am the arrow, the dew that flies suicidal"
This quote is the climax of the poem. It describes the rider's transformative rebirth through detailed, evocative imagery. This experience is conveyed through a series of metaphors, where the "arrow" and "dew" represent power and transition. Tone is also significant as this quote, occurring towards the end of the poem, conveys a strong sense of ecstasy and freedom. This perfectly juxtaposes with the initial state of "stasis" to indicate that the poem has come to a close. This juxtaposition provides a fitting conclusion to the poem, as it indicates a progression from the banal to the sublime. Hence, this quote represents the speaker's psychological rebirth and transcendence, as well as the creative power of poetry to facilitate this change. This suggests that the poem is both a metaphor for rebirth and an allegory for the creative power of poetry.
"Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas"
The speaker embraces the exhilaration of the horse ride, and imagines herself being transformed into 'foam', and a 'glitter of seas'. This metaphor depicts her transformation as being mystical, and suggests the speaker is at one with nature, almost becoming a part of it. Comparing herself with nature also consolidates her disconnection with her mundane, human life.
"Into the red eye, the cauldron of morning'
The speaker rides towards the 'red eye', a metaphor for the rising sun. The poem begins in early morning in complete darkness, and ends as the morning light appears. This represents the hope the speaker has for a new self, symbolized by the beginning of a new day. There is also a sense of darkness here. The 'cauldron' brings to mind gothic and supernatural connotations of witches, and the word 'morning' also brings to mind the word 'mourning'.
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