Inspired by Giorgio de Chirico's Conversation Among the Ruins, Sylvia Plath's Conversation Among the Ruins is found still more immersed with the havoc brought about by modern civilization. Matter-of-factly, this sonnet is meant to blame modernism for ruining the good old days when "magic" still happens in life.
Conversation, if I remember it right, is a thematic technique of post-modernist writers. Therefore, when reading Plath's Conversation Among the Ruins, I can easily detect the retrospective of the poet as a caring modern woman for the vanishing of the "rich order" of the archaic civilization. Moreover, Plath cleverly sets the conversation among the ruins and casts Modernity as a man "in coat and tie" and thus creates an absurd atmosphere that is actually meant to signify the absurdity of modernity.
In the beginning of the sonnet, Modernity is described as a man who "stalks" through the portico with "wild furies." In comparison with the "elegant house," "garlands of fruit," "fabulous lutes," and "peacocks," Modernity appears grim and desolate and doesn't have the heart to appreciate the beauty of the archaic civilization. What's worse, he would disturb and even rend "the net/of all decorum which holds the whirlwind back." Without the net of decorum as the shield of the bygone history, the whirlwind is felt to invade our lives with savagery and brutality. Plath, on the one hand, is found to accuse of the disastrous destruction caused by modernity; on the other, she shows infinite expectancy for and laments over the no-longer-existing good old days.
In the second part of the first verse paragraph, the "rooks" serve as an elegy to the erasure of the archaic civilization with its affluence. What's fallen here, furthermore, is not only the "rich order of walls" but also the "rich order" of life and manner. As a result, magic, which used to work wonders in art, in politics, in life, "takes flight/Like a daunted witch."
The second verse paragraph draws its readers' attention back to the conversation among the ruins. Here, modernity is subtly described as a triumphalist (who stands "heroic in coat and tie") over the ancient civilization (who sits "composed in Grecian tunic and psyche-knot"). "Heroic" is, ironically, utilized to stand out Modernity's prevalence and destructiveness. In the end, the celebrated Greek tragedy, pathetically, realizes itself as time rolls into a brave new era: "the play turned tragic." Thereupon, the archaic civilization is broke, is bankrupt. What's left, then, is but the "blight" and the "havoc," which are not patchable anymore.
Obviously Plath has created a very barren scene of the ruins so as to remind her readers of the destructiveness of modernity. The ruins, symbolic of the good of the human beings, are but ruins-they are no longer the once-splendid Greek or Roman or Mayan or Babylonian civilizations we know. They are furthermore the ruins of the mind, which has been seriously polluted and corrupted. The scene, again, reminds me of Eliot's The Wasteland. Only, in Conversation Among the Ruins, it is the ruins of the ancient civilization that reminds people of the possibly ruins of the modern civilization.
One last thing, in creating Conversation Among the Ruins, Plath uses a lot of k-, t-, d-sounds so as to ward off the smoothness of the reading of this poem. In so doing, I as one of the readers am oftentimes reminded of the harshness of the process of civilization. Besides, I can thereby associate the sounds with the destructiveness of Modernity.
Sylvia Plath is no doubt my favorite poet so far. (Pitifully I can't manage to go to the class thanks to the premiering of Communicating DoorsˇK) Snakecharmer is another interesting poem I enjoy. Although I haven't figured out what it is about, I just can feel the incredible rhythm of the poem created delicately by the utility of repetition. Reading Snakecharmer, to be honest, I feel as if in exotic India where the snakecharmer's melody is heard here and there, weaving up a labyrinth none can find a way out.