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  • International Reseach Journal,November,2010 ISSN-0975-3486 RNI: RAJBIL 2009/300097 VOL-I *ISSUE 14 Research Paper—English SYLVIA PLATH’S “ARIEL”& POETICS OF KINESIS, STASIS, & HOMEOSTASIS November, 2010 * V.R. Pandeya876543210987654321098765432121098765432109876543210987654321210987654321098765432109876543212109876543210987654321098765432187654321098765432109876543212109876543210987654321098765432121098765432109876543210987654321210987654321098765432109876543218765432109876543210987654321210987654321098765432109876543212109876543210987654321098765432121098765432109876543210987654321 *Asstt. Prof. Dept. of English, Kumaun University, S. S. J. Campus, Almora-8765432109876543210987654321210987654321098765432109876543212109876543210987654321098765432121098765432109876543210987654321876543210987654321098765432121098765432109876543210987654321210987654321098765432109876543212109876543210987654321098765432187654321098765432109876543212109876543210987654321098765432121098765432109876543210987654321210987654321098765432109876543218765432109876543210987654321210987654321098765432109876543212109876543210987654321098765432121098765432109876543210987654321“Ariel” (27 Oct., 1962) by Sylvia Plath is an autotelic, Wallace Stevens had celebrated the notion of life asself-referential poem. It differs from its contemporary motion in the title poem “Life is Motion” well beforespecies of poems in expression and vision by virtue Plath. Expressed totidem verbis, “Ariel” alsoof presenting a mental picture of the imagery of its celebrates the life lived, felt, and expressed whileown origin. The conception of the poem and its lingual being in motion. It is, however, not only thetranscription seems to have been based on the premise psychosomatic state of kinesis (motion) that Plaththat the way in which something is said or conveyed has poeticized in the poem but also its contrary statesis all in all in poetry which depends on expression and of stasis (inertia) and homeostasis (inner void). Onlyvision. Emotionally abrasive and tonally brusque, it a genius poet like Plath could have poeticized suchculminates into a life lived and art or craft conceived a complex states of psychosomatic feelings andthereof. What is singularly remarkable about the emotions rationally and directly into poetry.hysterically dicey imagination of Plath in it is the There is yet one another point of view whichverbal presentation of a visual perception of an needs to be stated here about the conception andequestrienne’s horse- ride which seems half real, half composition of “Ariel”. And that is that Plath hasimagined. The disjunctive syntaxes and jerky rhythmic blended in it fact and fiction in such a way thatmovement of its verse are in keeping with the poetic biography and poetry overlap each other. This is invision that expands from the “stasis in darkness”(1) complete conformity with Boccaccio’s conception ofinto the stasis of radiance Into the red Eye, the Poetry which ought to be a fitting garment of factscauldron of morning (30-31).A suicide manqué, the and fictions’. Plath has localized in “Ariel” arider –speaker is ‘at one’ not only with the drive of the crescendo——an equestrienne’s (her own)runaway horse ‘Ariel’ whose “brown arc of the experience of riding a runaway horse ‘Ariel’ who hadneck”(8-9) she can not catch but also with the flying taken the bit between his teeth at a riding school at“arrow” and the “dew that flies ——suicidal”. Dartmoor in Devonshire. As her poet-husband TedVirtually, the poem turns out to be a suicidal Hughes has it, the ‘horse bolted and she had to clingequestrienne’s suisong. to its neck for two miles at full gallop’. Only this much The art, imagination, and vision displayed of biography is relevant to the conception andby Plath in this poem is central to the poems of her composition of “Ariel”. But, since even facts in poetryposthumously published eponymous volume— are mostly imagined facts, the poem is to be taken asAriel. And, since the poetry of “Ariel” belongs more than being a mere, literal, transcription of howgenerically to the poetry of ideas, it demands of us, it feels to be on a runaway horse especially when thelike the poetry of Emily Dickinson, points of view and rider is terrified because she has lost contact with thecritical competence, not opinion for its interpretation rhythm of the horse’s motion and she may at anyand analysis. One of the points of view concerning moment be at one with the blurred ground below, Asthe conception and composition of “Ariel” is based Roberta Burke has it:on the notion that ‘life is motion’. Plath’s metaphorical The Ariel of the poem is not the headstrong horse at“The blood jet is poetry / There is no stopping it” (18- Cambridge, nor the stallion she claimed she was19) in “kindness” (1 Feb., 1963) vindicates learning to master herself, nor the riding schoolretrospectively the notion of motion and its lingual gelding, but an imaginary beast she created, just astranscription in the poetry of “Ariel”. And, moreover, the mythical winged horse, Pegasus who symbolizedthe speaker of her another poem “Years” (16 Nov. poetry, sprang from Medusa’s blood. (75-76)1962) also speaks of being in love with the “piston in Presentation of an equestrian experience, be it real ormotion”(12); with the “hooves of the horses” (14) imagined, in poetry is perand their “merciless churn”(15). se quite un-poetical, but even so, its symbolic RESE ARCH AN ALYSI S AND EVALU ATION 53
  • International Reseach Journal,November,2010 ISSN-0975-3486 RNI: RAJBIL 2009/300097 VOL-I *ISSUE 14presentation should find preference over a literal The poetic strategy that Plath has adopted in thisone. And that is why the eo nomine horse ‘Ariel’ poem is to push communication as an objective ofplays only a symbolic role in the poem.The expression to the background and to bring the act ofequestrienne, the rider of ‘Ariel’, has been trapped speech or expression itself into the foreground.into an estranged world of predicates where Application of this poetic strategy makes eveneverything happens at the level of mind and events unnatural and incompatible elements soundand objects relate directly to suicidal condition. poetically natural and compatible— a “God’sCoherence, constancy, and control have been utterly lioness”(4) (the rider speaker) riding a gelding or anlost and it is “dry and rider-less” words of “Words” equestrienne riding a lioness (the horse ‘Ariel’).(1 Feb., 1963) that push the piston of blood into Absence of both the subject and the object in the firstmotion. The rider speaker is in the teeth of a formidable stanza implies the loss of contact between the rider-situation of fear psychosis. There is no lexical mention speaker and the horse she is riding. The latter hasof the horse except for in the title of the poem but even been hinted at only by “the brown arc/ Of the neckthen we feel, while we read the poem, as if the horse I cannot catch”(8-9). We are wary of the awesomelike the horses in “Words” were running away “off speed of the horse as well as of the rider’s feeling notfrom the center” (5) of its rider’s life: only of stasis which involves the stoppage of herGods lioness, / How one we grow,/ Pivot of heels and blood circulation but also of homeostasis— aknees!- the furrow / Splits and passes, sister to psychosomatic feeling of inner void created in herThe brown arc/ Of the neck I cannot catch (3-8). mind. In the state of homeostasis, one’s mind goesIt is the breakneck speed of the horse which has been blank and the world whooshes away in void. Ashinted at altogether with its at oneness with the rider- Anirban has it:speaker ——“How one we grow”(5). And, “What In the void, the primordial energy is simply existing.counts here is acceleration, not allusion” (Blessing In its very essence, it is both dynamic and passive,65).The poem begins with an imperceptible perception the two distinctive forces which are always fightingof ‘Stasis in darkness’ and ends with the supra- within us (137).sensuous perception of stasis in the radiance of “the These twain feelings of stasis and homeostasis havered/ Eye, the cauldron of morning”. And in between been set off against the kinetic gallop of the horsethese two stases we envisage the tinsel vision of ‘Ariel’. But, if we go by the rider-speaker’s half-formed“substance-less blue”(2) and “pour of tor and statements, it is neither the feeling of stasis nor ofdistances”(3). Half- formed statements spoken in homeostasis but of “something else” (15) that ‘hauls’extremis by the speaker refer to the intensity and her: - through the airextremity of the situation and the poem progresses Thighs, hair;/ Flakes from my heels / White/ Godiva,sustained only by the permeable and conducive I unpeel —/Dead hands, dead stringenciesvocabulary, catalectic syntaxes, off-beat placement And now I Foam to wheat a glitter of seas (16-23).of words, half formed sentences and use of dashes The word ‘haul’ implies the application of effort, ofmostly for breaking the continuity of thought. The violent force. While sharing vicariously the equestrianrider –speaker’s horse-riding experience appears experience of the rider-speaker, we oscillate betweensharable only with the courage, rightness, audacity, her psychosomatic states of stasis and kinesis. Theand ease of her own inspiration and, that too, at our horse ‘Ariel’, the ‘arrow’, and the ‘dew’ are all in flightown risk. The metaphorical image of ‘God’s lioness’ and yet at one with the ‘God’s lioness’, in a stand-stillin the second stanza tantalizes us. It is ambiguous as position. Perception of stasis in kinesis and viceto whether this ‘lioness’ stands for the rider-speaker versa have been fused and confused with one anotheror for the gelding she is riding. Or may be, Plath used in the poem. Of several paradoxes that have raisedthis metaphor for the possession of creative “demonic modern problems of time and space, “motion is anpowers” (Alvarez 14,24). Otherwise, to address illusion” had been pointed out by the Greekgelding as lioness would resort to gender fallacy. We philosopher Zeno of Elea (490-430 BC). Since an arrowhear the speaker of Plath’s “Purdah” (31 Oct. 1962) in flight must occupy a determinate space at eachunleashing a lioness from within herself. And as has instant and, therefore, it must be at rest. Plath makesbeen stated earlier, the horse has not been mentioned her poetic persona create for herself a self-image oflexically even once in the poem, nor do we hear its the legendary Lady Godiva (1040-1080 AD) who had“hoof-taps”(17) or “merciless churn”(15) as we do in ridden naked through the streets at noon on the“Words” and “Years” by Plath. All these referents condition that her husband Leofric, Earl of Mercea,have strategically been back-grounded here in “Ariel”. reduced the heavy taxes levied on the people of54 RESEARCH ANALYSI S AND EVALUATION
  • International Reseach Journal,November,2010 ISSN-0975-3486 RNI: RAJBIL 2009/300097 VOL-I *ISSUE 14Coventry. However, the imagined Godiva riding ‘Ariel’ life and death both, it implies for the rider speaker whoin the poem contrasts markedly with the factual Godiva is intent on riding her horse, like Charon into the Sun,of the legend. The focus in the poem is on Godvia as only death. The twain images of the “red Eye” and thesubject rather than as spectacle. Reference to the “Cauldron of morning”(30-31) for the sun arelegendary voyeur— the peeping Tom who turned sensuously evocative. The image of “red Eye” alsoblind because he had peeped sneakily at Godiva symbolizes the discriminative path of wisdom. Theriding a horse naked in broad daylight—too is missing sun is target of all— the arrow, the dew, and the riderin the poem. And, instead of peeling “dead hands”, speaker. The “dew” that “makes a star”(28) in “Death“dead stringencies”, and “white flakes” from her & Co.” (14 Nov. 1962) evanesces into the sun in“heels”, the imagined Godiva in the poem speaks “Ariel”. The arrow too has a symbolic reference in thesolecistically of unpeeling them. Her foaming to poem. Like the Upanishadic arrow, it symbolizes soul“wheat a glitter of seas” (23) resorts to her extreme that transcends life through death:nervousness. The image of Godiva in the poem is Aum is the bow, Atman is the arrowmore scaring more than that of the legendary one. She Brahman, they say is the target to be pierced (541).feels to have been hauled “through the air” not by the Only the shooting bow of the “arrow”(27) in flight is“Nigger eye” (10), “Hooks”(12), “Black sweet blood nowhere in evidence in the poem. The word “suicidal”mouthfuls”(13), and “shadows”(14), but by (28) qualifies the death-drive of the rider –speaker“something else” (15) — that is by the deadly gallop who is at one with the ‘Ariel’, the ‘arrow’, and theof ‘Ariel’. We are led from the visual and tactile ‘dew’——all flying towards the sun. The suicidalperception of the peeling (or unpeeling) off of white flight of ‘God’s lioness’ riding the galloping ‘Ariel’ is‘flakes’ from her ‘heels’, to the peeling (or unpeeling) also referable to the “up-flight of the murderess intooff of the outer layers of her false selves— “Dead a heaven that loves her” (48) in “The Bee meeting”hands” and “dead stringencies”(21). This act of (3 Oct.,1962) and to the ‘Queen bee’ who in “Stings”stripping off of her false selves is reminiscent of the (6 Oct., 1962) is : 1 - Flying More terrible than she everstripping off of “old whore petticoats” (53) by the was, red Red scar in the sky, red comet (56-58). And,speaker of “Fever 1030”(20 Oct. 1962) and “old to conclude, the aerial flight of ‘Ariel’ is alsobandages, boredoms, old faces” (66) by the speaker reminiscent of Emily Dickinson’s flighty Horsesof “Getting There” (6 Nov., 1962). The auditory heading towards “Eternity” (24) in “Because I Couldperception of the “cry of a baby” (61) audible at the not Stop for Death”(712). And over and above, it isend of “A Birthday Present” (30 Sept. 1962) transforms the rider-speaker, not the horse ‘Ariel’, who is ‘dyingitself into the visual perception of a “child’s cry” (24) to fly and be done with it’ like the “Christus/Thethat melts in the “wall” (25) in “Ariel”. This over- awful” in “Years” (16 Nov. 1962) by Sylvia Plath.lexicalized “cry” of a “baby” or “child” in the late Works Citedpoems of Plath seems to serve no specific purpose— Alvarez, A. The Savage God: A Study of Suicide.symbolic or poetic. To associate this incidental “Cry London: Wiedenfeld Nicolson. 1971. Print.of baby” (61) in Plath’s late poems with the cry of her Anirban, Sri. Letters from a Baul : Life Within Life.own male baby Nicholas would merely be a Caclutta:Sri Aurobindo Pathmandir. 1983. Print.biographical fallacy. Berke, Roberta. Bounds out of Bounds. New York : The speaker and the galloping ‘Ariel’ she is OUP. 1981. Print. Blessing, Richard Allen. “The shaperiding are not to be taken as separate entities of the Psyche: Vision and Technique in the Lateindependent of each other in the poem. The former poems of Sylvia Plath”. Gary Lane. Ed. Sylvia Plath:exists only so long and so far as the motion of the New Views on the Poetry. Baltimore: Johns Hopkinslatter lasts. The personal pronoun ‘I’ of the speaker University Press. 1979. Print. ,,Richard Allen.undergoes metamorphic changes from the ‘arrow’ to Theodore Roethke’s Dynamic Vision. Bloomington:the ‘dew’— both having aerial association. Both are Indiana University Press. 1974. Print.Boccaccio,also at one with the breakneck motion of ‘Ariel’ and Giovanni. “The Fourteenth Book of the Genealogy ofthe death-drive of the rider-speaker. Their flight has the Gentile Gods”. James Harry Smith and Eddbeen made visually as well as symbolically effective. Winfield Parks. Comp. & Ed. The Great Critics. NewAnd, since the duality of life and death is to be York: W.W. Norton & Company. 1951. Print. Burke,transcended only by the act of dying or death, the Kenneth. “ Poetic Process”. Wilbur S. Scott. Ed. Fiverider, the horse, the arrow, and the dew all must fly Approaches to Literary Criticism. New York. Colliertowards the Sun— into the cauldron of morning and Books. 1962. Print. Dickinson, Emily. “Because I couldbe done away with. Though the Sun is the source of not Stop for Death”. Thomas H Johnson. Ed. TheRESE ARCH AN ALYSI S AND EVALU ATION 55
  • International Reseach Journal,November,2010 ISSN-0975-3486 RNI: RAJBIL 2009/300097 VOL-I *ISSUE 14Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Delhi: Kalyani Pondicherry: All India Books. 1977. Print.Publishers. 1960. Print. Dyne, Susan R Van. Revising Mukarovsky, Jan. Quotd. Roger Fowler. LinguisticLife: Sylvia Plath’s Ariel Poems. The University of Criticism. OUP 1988. Print.Newman, Char les. Ed. TheNorth Carolina Press. 1993. Print. Fiedelson, Charles Art Of Sylvia Plath: A Symposium.Bloomington:Jr. & Korb, Paul Brodt Jr. Ed. Interpretations of Indiana University Press. 1970. Print. Orr, Peter. Ed.American Literature. London. OUP. 1971. Print.Fowler, Poets Speak. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1966.Roger. Linguistic Criticism. Oxford: OUP. 198 8. Print. Print. Pannikar, Raimundo, Ed. The Vedic Experience.Howard, Richard. “Sylvia Plath: And I have No face, Pondicherry: All India Books. 1977. Print. Plath,I Have Wanted to Efface Myself”. Charles Newman. Aurelia Schober. Ed. Sylvia Plath. Letters Home.Ed. The Art of Sylvia Plath: A Symposium. London: Feber & Faber. 1977. Print.Plath, Sylvia. TedBloomington. Indiana University Press. 1970. Print. Hughes Ed.. Sylvia Plath: Collected Poems. London:Hughes, Ted. “ Notes on Poems: 1956-63” Ed. Sylvia Faber & Faber. 1981. Print. Scott, Wilbur S.Ed. FivePlath: Collected Poems. London: Feber & Faber. 1981. Approaches to Literary Criticism. NewYork: CollierPrint.,, ,,. “Notes on Ariel Poems” Charles Newman. Books. 1962. Print. Smith, Harry James and Parks, EddEd. The Art of Sylvia Plath: A Symposium. London: Winfield. Ed. The Great Critics.New York: W.W.Faber & Faber. 1970. Print. Johnson, Thomas H. Ed. Norton & Company. 1951. Print.Tate, Allen. “EmilyThe Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson.Delhi: Dickinson”. Charles Fiedelson Jr. and Paul BrodtKalyani Publishers. 1960. Print. Lane, Gary. Ed. Sylvia korb. Jr. Ed. Interpretations of American Literature.Plath: New Views on the Poetry. Baltimore: Johns London: OUP. 1971. Print.Times Literary Supplement:Hopkins University Press. 1979. Print.Levine, Miriam. Essays & Reviews. London: OUP. 1966. Print.The Journals of Sylvia Plath. American Book Review. Upshall, Michael. Ed. The Hutchinson Encyclopaedic1983. Print.Mahanar Upanishad : 541. Raimundo Dictionary. New Second Edition. Oxford: HeliconPannikar. Trans. & Ed. The Vedic Experience. Publishing Ltd. 1994. Print.56 RESEARCH ANALYSI S AND EVALUATION