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Perseus Analysis

Author: poem of Sylvia Plath Type: poem Views: 10

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The Triumph of Wit Over Suffering

Head alone shows you in the prodigious act

Of digesting what centuries alone digest:

The mammoth, lumbering statuary of sorrow,

Indissoluble enough to riddle the guts

Of a whale with holes and holes, and bleed him white

Into salt seas.  Hercules had a simple time,

Rinsing those stables:  a baby's tears would do it.

But who'd volunteer to gulp the Laocoon,

The Dying Gaul and those innumerable pietas

Festering on the dim walls of Europe's chapels,

Museums and sepulchers?  You.


Who borrowed feathers for your feet, not lead,

Not nails, and a mirror to keep the snaky head

In safe perspective, could outface the gorgon-grimace

Of human agony:  a look to numb

Limbs:  not a basilisk-blink, nor a double whammy,

But all the accumulated last grunts, groans,

Cries and heroic couplets concluding the million

Enacted tragedies on these blood-soaked boards,

And every private twinge a hissing asp

To petrify your eyes, and every village

Catastrophe a writhing length of cobra,

And the decline of empires the thick coil of a vast


          Imagine:  the world

Fisted to a foetus head, ravined, seamed

With suffering from conception upwards, and there

You have it in hand.  Grit in the eye or a sore

Thumb can make anyone wince, but the whole globe

Expressive of grief turns gods, like kings, to rocks.

Those rocks, cleft and worn, themselves then grow

Ponderous and extend despair on earth's

Dark face.

           So might rigor mortis come to stiffen

All creation, were it not for a bigger belly

Still than swallows joy.

                         You enter now,

Armed with feathers to tickle as well as fly,

And a fun-house mirror that turns the tragic muse

To the beheaded head of a sullen doll, one braid,

A bedraggled snake, hanging limp as the absurd mouth

Hangs in its lugubious pout.  Where are

The classic limbs of stubborn Antigone?

The red, royal robes of Phedre?  The tear-dazzled

Sorrows of Malfi's gentle duchess?


In the deep convulsion gripping your face, muscles

And sinews bunched, victorious, as the cosmic

Laugh does away with the unstitching, plaguey wounds

Of an eternal sufferer.

                         To you

Perseus, the palm, and may you poise

And repoise until time stop, the celestial balance

Which weighs our madness with our sanity.


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