In Response To:
Two Views of a Cavader Room
The poem Two Views of a Cavader Room discusses on the controversy of death and love. The poem is divided into two parts. The first part resembles a scene in Sylvia Plath's Novel The Bell Jar. The poem pictures a female visitor whom is in a cavader observing the dissection of four bodies. The bodies are the depictions of death as an unpleasant element, for the four dead bodies are "black as burnt turkey / Already half unstrung." Not only are the bodies not intact, "vinegary fume / Of the death vats" which is irritating smell soaked throughout the bodies. While the students in the laboratory (described as white-smocked boys) start with their work of dissection, the female visitor inspects the head of a cavader, the head was "caved in;" thus, she could not make out anything from there. All she can describe is that the head is a "rubble of skull plates and old leather. From the head she perceives death as a skull without a face. Even the string used to hold the head and body together is described as "sallow," having a pale, lifeless color, which implies death.
As the poem moves to the second stanza, the visitor's attention deviates to the jars in the room. The jars contain fetuses having an absolute different image as compared to the four dead bodies. The description of fetuses as "snail-nosed babies " portrays a sense of fantasy. Though the fetuses are dead beings, they seem to be able to "moon and glow" in the still, enclosed room; this image and that of the dead bodies coincide to present Two Views of a Cavader Room.
The last line in the stanza has "he" giving the visitor "the cut-out heart" of one of the body. "He" according to the novel of Sylvia Plath should be the medical student boyfriend of the female visitor. This action of "he" implies the presentation of a dead by "real" heart to the visitor. The "comparison of the heart as "a cracked heirloom" further enhances the importance of the heart, in a lifeless and horrifying atmosphere.
The second part of the poem has the attention set on a painting by Brueghel, named The Triumph of Death. The painting is a "panorama of smoke and slaughter." However, the speaker's focus is on a pair of lovers, whom are depicted in the right lower corner of the painting. Seemingly the lovers are not at all affected by the havoc surrounding, they are described as "Two people only are blind to the carrion army." Death is not a threat at all, for love is much more puissant. The exploration of the body as compared to the first part of the poem is much tender. The man "sings in the direction / Of her bare shoulder"; the woman, on the other hand, is "Fingering a leaflet of music, over him." Death is the explorer in the first part of the poem, while love is the one in the second part. Even though Death has their song shadowed, they will not be able to notice it with the presence of love. Music, which has a connotation meaning of harmony, faces the corruption of Death whom too holds a fiddle in his hand. Nonetheless, Death here is again depicted using the image of a head.
The speaker then comments on the lovers in the last line of this stanza that "These Flemish lovers flourish; not for long." The poem does not end here, it follows on with the contradiction of the speaker's own words in the previous line. The speaker says that the desolated "little country" which implies the world created by the lovers, however, will be spared for it's "Foolish, delicate" existence "in the lower right hand corner" of the painting. This is because of the idea of the power of art brought out by the speaker. It is the power of art, besides Love, that protects the lovers from the threat of death; the "little country" is "stalled in paint." Obviously, the title of the painting, The Triumph of Death is ironic.
The juxtaposition of the two descriptions relevantly reflects each other. The lover in the painting could actually be compared to the visitor and the "he" who hands the "true" heart to her. Both present a pleasant and warm image of love contradicting death, within the encroachment of death. If the painting is the source of preservation for "the little country," Sylvia Plath's poem should be the preservation for the affectionate gesture of love seen in the horrifying Cavader room. In conclusion, we can the parts of the poem are actually the Two Views of a Cavader Room.
The poem is formless, yet in certain order. There are both two stanzas in each part of the poem; nine lines in the first stanza, eight line in the second. Not only there is no rhyme in the poem, the length of each line is not in specific order.
Sylvia Plath is successful in stressing the strength of love. The part on the preservation of the essence of morality reminds me of Keat's Ode to a Grecian Urn.