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Subject The Colossus
Posted by The Duke of Earl
Posted on Thu Dec 17 23:51:10 1998
From IP h245.s117.ts30.hinet.net  

The Colossus

  In the year of 1960, Sylvia Plath published her first poetry volume-The Colossus. It is a collection of her early poems, which she made since she was twenty-three. The title of this poem is also "The Colossus". I think it is the preface or something that has something to do with the poetry volume.
  This poem is special. It tells the readers the process of speaker's making up the poetry collection, and her thoughts when she is putting all her poems together in the collection.
  The "you" in this poem seems to suggest the poems that the speaker has made, and "The Colossus" seems to be the one-way conversation between the collected poems and the speaker.
  It is a kind of surprising that at first, the speaker doesn't want to collect these poems. By saying, "I shall never get you (the poems) put together entirely", the speaker thinks that these poems are nonsense or noise which are just like "Mule-bray, pig-grunt and bawdy cackles." The speaker thinks they are with no use; they are even worse than the noise made by livestock on the farm. In this stanza, I also realize that maybe word processing program wasn't invented yet, or computers were still not popularly used; as a result, the speaker has to cut and glue the poems that she had made. And the movements of the poems cutting and jointing are quite interesting. These movements suggest that the speaker is dismembering the poems she has made.
  Still, in the second stanza, we can realize the speaker is keeping on condemning the poems. Besides, it seems that the poems, from the speaker's point of view, are personified and the speaker thinks that the poems are like the oracles and the mouthpiece of the god and the dead. In the fourth line of the second stanza, the speaker finally reveals her role in the poem. It has been thirty years and she "[has] labored/to dredge the silt from [the poems'] throat." She is the creator of the poems. Just like the dredger that moves the mud away from the river, the speaker moves away the silt from the poems in order to make them become more perfect. But still, the speaker says, "I am none the wiser"-I'm still not fully aware of what happened. It seems to say that speaker doesn't even know what exactly her poems' true meanings are.
  In the third stanza, we can view the horrible scene that the speaker joints the pieces of her work together just like trying to connect many parts of the human body. The speaker carries the gluepot and the pail, and works as hard as an ant trying "to mend the immense skull plates and clear/the bald, white tumuli of [the poems'] eyes." It is just like a mysterious ceremony of offering sacrifices. The speaker "mourn[s] over the weedy areas of [the poems'] brow" and then begins to put the parts of the body (poem) together. The tone of the speaker is so calm (she specifically describes the brow, the skull plates the bald and the eyes) that it makes readers tremble with fear.
  Being the creator and the "quilter" of the poems, the speaker couldn't help but to praise her poems. In the fourth stanza, the speaker exclaims, "O father, all by yourself/You are pithy and historical as the Roman/Forum." I think the poems are the early works of the speaker, so these poems, for the speaker, are seemingly the recording of people's discussion a long time ago-they are quite old. They are "ancient" but valuable. Again in the following lines, we can see the terrible scene. The fragments of the poems, which are cut off by scissors, are just like "fluted bones and acanthine hair" and "are/littered//In their old anarchy to the horizon-line." The word "anarchy" seems to point out that the parts of the poems are such a mess. They are, like after a bloody massacre, scattered around on the ground. And to my surprise, I feel that in order to make a collection, the speaker does this on purpose by saying, "it would take more than a lightning-stroke/to create such a ruin." In the fourth line of this stanza, we can see the narrator "squat[s] in the cornucopia/Of the [poems']left ear." Cornucopia is the horn of plenty that sucked by the infant Zeus. It means that the even a small part of the poem (the ear) is still full of meanings like the cornucopia which is always filled with food and drink.
  In the last stanza, the night is over and the sun rises. In the line: "The sun rises under the pillar of your tongue", the speaker has already finished cutting and gluing. The word "hour" can be explained as the time in a person's life when he is experiencing a certain condition or feeling. So "My hours are married to shadow" seems to suggest that the former part of the speaker's life is going to be like shadow that will follow her forever but it is no longer a part of her future life.
  When Sylvia Plath was little, she loved the sea, so many of her poems contain the image of the ocean (according to Internet sources.) At the last two line of this poem, the speaker says, "No longer do I listen for the scrape of a keel/On the blank stones of the landing." This poetry collection seems to be milestone of the speaker's life (or her life of poetry.) When the speaker says she is no longer doing the thing (listening to the scrape of a keel) that she used to do before, it reveals that she is going to begin another phase of her life. And this volume of poetry, The Colossus, seems to be the tape that records the earlier part of her life.
  Seemingly a special introduction to the poetry volume, this poem contains many brutal image of death. From the third stanza, we can see the scene of separating the parts of the poems is just like dismembering the human body. Between the words, we can fully view the process of the "murder" of the poems. Though we fail to experience the bloody smell within the lines, yet the speaker's detailed description of the movement really makes reader feel uneasy.
  In this poem, we can also feel the complexity of the speaker's mental status. At the beginning, she seems to hate those poems. By teasing and scolding them, the speaker seems to suggest that the poems are really worse than nothing-they make annoying noise. However, when we come to the third stanza, the speaker begins to praise the poems by calling them "Roman Forum." With this sudden change of attitude, I realize that there must be a certain kind of emotion between the poetry and the speaker.
  This poem will be a special preface of a poetry collection.


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