e-texts of poems
Sylvia Plath


As the gods began one world, and man another,
So the snakccharmer begins a snaky sphere
With moon-eye, mouth-pipe.  He pipes.  Pipes green.  Pipes water.
Pipes water green until green waters waver 
With reedy lengths and necks and undulatings. 
And as his notes twine green, the green river 

Shapes its images around his songs. 
He pipes a place to stand on, but no rocks, 
No floor: a wave of flickering-grass tongues 

Supports his foot.  He pipes a world of snakes, 
Of sways and coilings, from the snake-rooted bottom 
Of his mind.  And now nothing but snakes 

Is visible.  The snake-scales have become 
Leaf, become eyelid; snake-bodies, bough, breast 
Of tree and human.  And he within this snakedom 

Rules the writhings which make manifest 
His snakehood and his might with pliant tunes 
From his thin pipe.  Out of this green nest 

As out of Eden's navel twist the lines 
Of snaky generations: let there be snakes! 
And snakes there were, are, will be-till yawns 

Consume this piper and he tires of music 
And pipes the world back to the simple fabric 
Of snake-warp, snake-weft.  Pipes the cloth of snakes 

To a melting of green water, tiII no snake 
Shows its head, and those green waters back to 
Water, to green, to nothing like a snake. 
Puts up his pipe, and lids his moony eye.

"The Snake Charmer" (1907) 
It is from Jim's Fine Art Collection 
Copyright (c) 1997-1998 L. James Grattan & Associates

From the Comic Operatic Fantasy The Seafarer  

It beguiles- 
This little Odyssey 
In ink and lavender 
Over a surface of gently- 
Graded turquoise tiles 
That represent a sea 
With chequered waves and gaily 
Bear up the seafarer, 
Gaily, gaily, 
In his pink plume and armor. 

A lantern-frail 
Gondola of paper 
Ferries the fishpond Sindbad 
Who poises his pastel spear 
Toward three pinky-purple 
Monsters which uprear 
Off the ocean-floor 
With fanged and dreadful head. 
Beware, beware 
The whale, the shark, the squid. 

But fins and scales 
Of each scrolled sea-beast 
Troll no slime, no weed. 
They are polished for the joust, 
They gleam like easter eggshells, 
Rose and amethyst. 
Ahab, fulfill your boast: 
Bring home each storied head. 
One thrust, one thrust, 
One thrust: and they are sped. 

So fables go. 
And so all children sing 
Their bathtub battles deep, 
Hazardous and long, 
But oh, sage grownups know 
Sea-dragon for sofa, fang 
For pasteboard, and siren-song 
For fever in a sleep. 
Laughing, laughing 
Of graybeards wakes us up.


"Battle-Scene From the Comic Operatic Fantasy The Seefarer" (1923) 
It is from Jim's Fine Art Collection 
Copyright (c) 1997-1998 L. James Grattan & Associates


"The Triumph of Death" (1962)
It is from Jim's Fine Art Collection
Copyright (c) 1997-1998 L. James Grattan & Associates
Two Views of a Cadaver Room  

The day she visited the dissecting room 
Thev had four men laid out, black as burnt turkey, 
Already half unstrung.  A vinegary fume 
Of the death vats clung to them; 
The white-smocked boys started working. 
The head of his cadaver had caved in, 
And she could scarcely make out anything 
In that rubble of skull plates and old leather. 
A sallow piece of string held it together. 

In their jars the snail-nosed babies moon and glow. 
He hands her the cut-out heart like a cracked heirloom. 


In Brueghel's panorama of smoke and slaughter 
Two people only are blind to the carrion armv: 
He, afloat in the sea of her blue satin 
Skirts, sings in the direction 
Of her bare shoulder, while she bends, 
Fingering a leaflet of music, over him, 
Both of them deaf to the fiddle in the hands 
Of the death's-head shadowing their song. 
These Flemish lovers flourish; not for long. 

Yet desolation, stalled in paint, spares the little country 
Foolish, delicate, in the lower right hand corner.

The lower right corner of "The Truimph of Death"

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