Mad Girl’s Love Song


I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell’s fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan’s men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you’d return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

– Sylvia Plath



18 responses to “Mad Girl’s Love Song

  1. She had such a tragic and controversial death.

    • Oh yes. I was scanning the master proofs of her manuscripts yesterday (to send to a scholar in Hungary) and so was reading the poems for hours…a very tragic, but very gifted woman.

  2. What a poem. It is time I read more of her.

  3. I should have checked before sending the above links – I just assumed they were Kimon Friar translations. Instead of the above, look at these:

    Ideal Suicides
    They firmly lock their doors and take
    their old, long-treasured letters out,
    read quietly for a while and then
    drag out their steps for the last time.

    Their life, they say, was a tragedy,
    Dear God, the frightful laughter of men,
    the tears, the sweat, and the vast sky’s
    nostalgia, all the bleak waste lands.

    They stand still by the window, gaze
    at trees, at children, at nature there,
    at marble cutters cutting marble,
    at the sun setting now forever.

    Everything’s ended. And here’s the note,
    profound, brief, simple, as is most meet,
    filled with forgiveness and unconcern
    for whoever, reading it, will weep.

    They gaze in the mirror, note the hour,
    ask: is this madness, a great mistake?
    “Everything’s ended,” they whisper, “now.”
    Deep down, of course, they know they’ll postpone it.

    Death is the buzzards that bicker and squawk
    against black walls, on red roof tiles,
    death is the women who make love
    as easily as they peel onions.

    Death is the filthy, commonplace streets
    with all their great, splendiferous names,
    the olive groves, the surrounding sea,
    even the sun, death within deaths.

    Death is the inspector who wraps up
    a morsel to see if it’s short-weighed,
    death is the hyacinths placed on the porch,
    the school teacher reading the day’s news.

    Army Base, Garrison, Troops at Preveza.
    On Sundays we’ll flock to hear the band.
    I’ve opened now a bank account,
    my first deposit: just one dollar.

    As you stroll on the pier slowly, you say:
    “Do I exist?” Then: “You don’t exist!”
    The steamship docks. Its flag hoisted high.
    Perhaps the Prefect has just arrived.

    If only among these men, at least
    one, only one, but died of disgust,
    with decorous manner, silent and sad,
    we’d have high fun at his funeral.

    • Yes, “Death is a woman being loved in the course of onion peeling” is quite off of “Death is the women who make love as easily as they peel onions.” Translations are fascinating…the later was a line that says something quite interesting, the former a line that merely befuddles (not least of all in its awkwardness). Makes me endlessly curious about the original…I am not familiar with his poetry, (thank you for sharing it) but I agree with you – I think the word ‘easy,’ when I read it in this dark context points, for me, to the finality. Perhaps Hemingway and Plath mean the -getting to the act – is easy, to which I can, thankfully, find no comprehension, but there is something simple, easy-like, in the absoluteness of it, the totality of it. The difference between a light that is on and off. Someone need only turn the light off. Easy.
      The use of the word contains the horror of the despair.

      • Yes, the former a little like what you might find on an English menu in a foreign country.
        I’m also fascinated by translation. A good one is a work in and of itself and depending on the translator it might even be better than the original. Two things seem to me desirable: an excellent command of the language (in Friar’s case – Greek mom, American dad) and a gift.
        If you like check out Friar’s Modern Greek Poetry – it contains among others his translations of Cavafis.
        I really like your reading of “easy.”

      • I’ve requested it from my library system. Thanks! Oh I did figure out how to get kindle books without owning a kindle – I’ll have to thank Howard for that. So I was able to purchase your book. It’s wonderful.

      • My pleasure. Let me know which poets/poems you like.
        Thanks for the kind words.
        By the way, do me a favor and suggest which D.H. Lawrence novel I should start with. For whatever reason, I’ve never read one of his though I do know a few of his poems.
        Next book to read is Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, which you recommended.

      • I would say The Rainbow (because it leads to others, involves generational implications which is fascinating, besides being wonderful and moving) or one of the Lady Chatterley’s depending on – well I haven’t read The First, but John Thomas and Lady Jane is slightly more compact in story, a little more focused on social implications and class, as well as love and the importance of sexual love as Lady Chatterley’s Lover, of course, explores in depth, there may be more philosophy in the later…I really love both. The Chatterley books are his cris de coeur, his brave and passionate call to the world, so in that regard I think they are important. Placed historically, as well as in the light of the way the world has gone, I find them extremely compelling and inspiring.

        Ah, Mrs. Dalloway..Septimus! Wonderful book. In a way it is a wonderful segue into Lawrence (particularly the character of Septimus). Lawrence was a hugely influential writer for his peers and many that followed, but I’m not sure many hear his call any longer.

      • Much appreciated.
        I’ll start with The Rainbow.

  4. Amazing. Thanx for posting. A shame she is often known more for how shedied or was married to than for what she wrote

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