Interpretation of Ariel, by Sylvia Plath

Ariel. A luscious red haired mermaid sadly isn’t included in the identification of the namesake. Rather Sylvia’s husband, Ted, influenced many of the readings through adding that Sylvia rode at a Dartmoor riding school. Having engaged in several long and enduring treks over Dartmoor hill and heath, I’m thoroughly surprised that one shaggy haired moor pony ever bolted in its lifetime. My experience tends to surround hammering the oblivious sides of the beasts, and trying to blindly tear their mouths away from the nearest fern. This all takes place in spitting cold rain, in sodden castoff jeans considered weathered enough to feel the fury of three hours in the saddle. Not quite the ‘substanceless blue / pour of tor and distances’ (you can’t quite see for the next tor through the muggy Dartmoor smog, let alone the great distances. Prayers be with the ten tors volunteers). The spondees ‘stasis in darkness’ and ‘pour of tor’ amplify quite the pace at which the trail pony must have taken up, static scenery turned to a blur of Dartmoor colours (which have a regrettable tendency to revolve around grey and green).

IMG_5199

(my friend aboard a trusty Dartmoor steed)

Some claim the horse to ignite the symbol of male sexuality. I’m not quite sure. We may indeed have fallen so low as to include ‘stud’ or ‘studmuffin’ in the endless list of endearments, or Tinder profile labels, but horses can just as easily be assimilated in the female sense. I was never quite sure on the gender of Falada, my favourite fairytale mount, I don’t suppose they gelded in those days. The words murmured by poor Falada’s head ‘if this your mother knew / her heart would break in two’ do otherwise take the tone of a gentle, doting mare.

Jerusalem was also referred to as ‘Ariel’, as predestined to be destroyed by flames. Another interpretation of the title of choice, tying in to the concluding stanza, and line – ‘suicidal, at one with the drive / into the red / Eye, the cauldron of the morning’. Perhaps the pony has truly taken a turn for the worst, and with the wind up its tail bolted straight through the night until the rising sun brightens Plath’s world – if she has not already plunged off the careering animal in rather a few nightly hours. Otherwise, this reference could indeed be Jerusalem’s flames, come to plague. Much like Troy, you could ascertain. Cities tend to go down in flames.

I’m not necessarily a hardcore feminist. I don’t think this poem sees Plath paving the gender-war either. The allusions to female strength and powder are obvious; ‘God’s lioness’, as if embodying the almighty powder of a Lord within the sleek coat of a female predator. ‘Godiva’, too, the woman who paraded the streets of Coventry, nude and on horseback, to boycott taxation, is an emblem of female strength, on horseback (lets hope Plath herself wasn’t too unclothed, sitting astride her Dartmoor pony. It gets rather nippy in Winter).
Yet, ‘I unpeel – dead hands, dead stringencies’, suggests rebirth and shedding of restrictions. When related to ‘the child’s cry / Melts in the wall’, the mention of an adolescent could possibly be the internal child, in the narrator, or rather Plath, herself. Sitting astride a bolting horse is rather frightening (my mother bought me an ex racehorse in place of a trusty furry Shetland, so I can advise you justly). Perhaps Plath has indeed located her inner sophisticated goddess whilst straddling a wild horse. I just question the feasibility of reaching great epiphanies when grappling for the reins.

Stasis in darkness.
Then the substanceless blue
Pour of tor and distances.

God’s lioness,
How one we grow,
Pivot of heels and knees!—The furrow

Splits and passes, sister to
The brown arc
Of the neck I cannot catch,

Nigger-eye
Berries cast dark
Hooks—

Black sweet blood mouthfuls,
Shadows.
Something else

Hauls me through air—
Thighs, hair;
Flakes from my heels.

White
Godiva, I unpeel—
Dead hands, dead stringencies.

And now I
Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas.
The child’s cry

Melts in the wall.
And I
Am the arrow,

The dew that flies
Suicidal, at one with the drive
Into the red

Eye, the cauldron of morning.

-Sylvia Plath, 1962

On the blog name.

Of course I was deeply enamoured at the thought of plucking out a blog name, eyecatching and teeming with wit or a pinch of great intellect. I could have some lengthy back story at the ready, casually tossing in a tale of extreme benevolence towards the elderly. Or a foreign word, that could stand emblazoned at the top of the blog in an understated and classy font, loosely translating into something that projects my savvy mentality, or on the contrary, gently mocking since can’t we all empathise with someone able to disgrace themselves for a few stray giggles.

Alas, sadly the final school year is ticking onwards and I haven’t yet been enlightened with any such slogans, so you’ll have to make do with me and my slaptstick qualities, rather than the blog name, for now.

Following on from that dampening introduction, the phrase does certainly hold an element of truth. I do rather like stars. Now before I bowl you over with that excellent hyperbole (my rhyming talents clearly aren’t going to win your hearts either), let me affirm that it does at least hold an element of truth. Having a fairly loose reining mother, I’ve always toyed with the idea of getting a stellar related quote inked on my back. ‘A metaphor for the night sky; a trillion asterisks and no explanations’ is my diction of choice.
There was some confusion over the author of these words, when my mother requested a short list of quotes for some hand painted, inspirational kitchen tiles. I did taper on the authors of each quote on to my little list, for copyrights sake, yet this was apparently lost in translation through several email inboxes. For quite some time I was certain that the quote was thanks to Oscar Wilde. Later ponderings led to the dramatic realisation that O. Wilde was in fact an adapted version of my own surname, Waelde (no hard feelings, I’m well accustomed to a multitude of misspellings thanks to this ruffian tagged on to my passport). Therefore I’d like to publicly relieve myself of the duties of apologising to Mr. Brault, as the dark cloud of stolen words has been hanging over me to the date. Neither myself nor Oscar Wilde are due credit for this astrological quote. (We tend also to turn a blind eye upon the phallic nature of the feline face, when sipping our tea in the new kitchen).

IMG_6743

There we have it. I’m not head over heels, engrossed in every astrology newsletter, able to drawl on for hours to dinner guests over the complex life cycle of the bright little lights in the sky (I can hardly recall my GCSE physics life cycle dip into them as it is), I can’t point out any more constellations than ‘der kleiner Wagen’ (the little wheelbarrow) and I struggle hideously in discerning a man in Orion, or a pup in Sirius. Despite the listed shortfalls in my nebula knowledge, I did experience warm and tingly feelings when browsing a pre bedtime Buzzfeed article on non sexual fetishes, and seeing ‘Astrophile’ leading the pack, as a person who loves stars. Indeed, I can’t tally off impressive memorised figures, of light years, and light distance, and the number of stars which, incomprehensibly, no longer exist even as we peer up at them on clear nights. Yet, the impassive and stately expanse of night skies do captivate me more than your average Joe (or so I’d like to believe).