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  1. 1. International Reseach Journal,November,2010 ISSN-0975-3486 RNI: RAJBIL 2009/300097 VOL-I *ISSUE 14 53RESEARCH ANALYSIS AND EVALUATION “Ariel”(27Oct.,1962)bySylviaPlathisanautotelic, self-referentialpoem.Itdiffersfromitscontemporary species of poems in expression and vision by virtue of presenting a mental picture of the imagery of its ownorigin.Theconceptionofthepoemanditslingual transcriptionseemstohavebeenbasedonthepremise that the way in which something is said or conveyed isallinallinpoetrywhichdependsonexpressionand vision. Emotionally abrasive and tonally brusque, it culminates into a life lived and art or craft conceived thereof. What is singularly remarkable about the hysterically dicey imagination of Plath in it is the verbal presentation of a visual perception of an equestrienne’shorse-ridewhichseemshalfreal,half imagined.Thedisjunctivesyntaxesandjerkyrhythmic movement of its verse are in keeping with the poetic vision that expands from the “stasis in darkness”(1) into the stasis of radiance Into the red Eye, the cauldron of morning (30-31).A suicide manqué, the rider–speakeris‘atone’notonlywiththedriveofthe runaway horse ‘Ariel’ whose “brown arc of the neck”(8-9) she can not catch but also with the flying “arrow” and the “dew that flies ——suicidal”. Virtually, the poem turns out to be a suicidal equestrienne’s suisong. The art, imagination, and vision displayed by Plath in this poem is central to the poems of her posthumously published eponymous volume— Ariel. And, since the poetry of “Ariel” belongs generically to the poetry of ideas, it demands of us, likethepoetryofEmilyDickinson,pointsofviewand criticalcompetence,notopinionforitsinterpretation and analysis. One of the points of view concerning the conception and composition of “Ariel” is based onthenotionthat‘lifeismotion’.Plath’smetaphorical “Thebloodjetispoetry/Thereisnostoppingit”(18- 19) in “kindness” (1 Feb., 1963) vindicates retrospectively the notion of motion and its lingual transcriptioninthepoetryof“Ariel”.And,moreover, the speaker of her another poem “Years” (16 Nov. 1962)alsospeaksofbeinginlovewiththe“pistonin motion”(12); with the “hooves of the horses” (14) and their “merciless churn”(15). Research Paper—English 1234567890123456789012345678901212345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890123456789012345678 1234567890123456789012345678901212345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890123456789012345678 1234567890123456789012345678901212345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890123456789012345678 1234567890123456789012345678901212345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890123456789012345678 1234567890123456789012345678901212345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890123456789012345678 1234567890123456789012345678901212345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890123456789012345678 1234567890123456789012345678901212345678901234567890123456789012123456789012345678901234567890121234567890123456789012345678 November, 2010 SYLVIAPLATH’S “ARIEL”& POETICS OF KINESIS, STASIS, & HOMEOSTASIS * V.R. Pandeya Wallace Stevens had celebrated the notion of life as motioninthetitlepoem“LifeisMotion”wellbefore Plath. Expressed totidem verbis, “Ariel” also celebrates the life lived, felt, and expressed while being in motion. It is, however, not only the psychosomatic state of kinesis (motion) that Plath haspoeticizedinthepoembutalsoitscontrarystates ofstasis(inertia)andhomeostasis(innervoid).Only a genius poet like Plath could have poeticized such a complex states of psychosomatic feelings and emotions rationally and directly into poetry. Thereisyetoneanotherpointofviewwhich needs to be stated here about the conception and composition of “Ariel”. And that is that Plath has blended in it fact and fiction in such a way that biography and poetry overlap each other. This is in completeconformitywithBoccaccio’sconceptionof Poetry which ought to be a fitting garment of facts and fictions’. Plath has localized in “Ariel” a crescendo——an equestrienne’s (her own) experienceofridingarunawayhorse‘Ariel’whohad taken the bit between his teeth at a riding school at Dartmoor in Devonshire. As her poet-husband Ted Hughes has it, the ‘horse bolted and she had to cling toitsneckfortwomilesatfullgallop’.Onlythismuch of biography is relevant to the conception and compositionof“Ariel”.But,sinceevenfactsinpoetry are mostly imagined facts, the poem is to be taken as more than being a mere, literal, transcription of how it feels to be on a runaway horse especially when the rideristerrifiedbecauseshehaslostcontactwiththe rhythm of the horse’s motion and she may at any moment be at one with the blurred ground below,As Roberta Burke has it: The Ariel of the poem is not the headstrong horse at Cambridge, nor the stallion she claimed she was learning to master herself, nor the riding school gelding, but an imaginary beast she created, just as themythicalwingedhorse,Pegasuswhosymbolized poetry, sprang from Medusa’s blood. (75-76) Presentationofanequestrianexperience,beitrealor imagined, in poetry is per se quite un-poetical, but even so, its symbolic *Asstt. Prof. Dept. of English, Kumaun University, S. S. J. Campus, Almora-
  2. 2. International Reseach Journal,November,2010 ISSN-0975-3486 RNI: RAJBIL 2009/300097 VOL-I *ISSUE 14 54 RESEARCH ANALYSIS AND EVALUATION presentation should find preference over a literal one. And that is why the eo nomine horse ‘Ariel’ plays only a symbolic role in the poem.The equestrienne, the rider of ‘Ariel’, has been trapped into an estranged world of predicates where everything happens at the level of mind and events and objects relate directly to suicidal condition. Coherence,constancy,andcontrolhavebeenutterly lost and it is “dry and rider-less” words of “Words” (1 Feb., 1963) that push the piston of blood into motion.Theriderspeakerisintheteethofaformidable situationoffearpsychosis.Thereisnolexicalmention ofthehorseexceptforinthetitleofthepoembuteven then we feel, while we read the poem, as if the horse like the horses in “Words” were running away “off from the center” (5) of its rider’s life: Godslioness,/Howonewegrow,/ Pivot of heels and knees!- the furrow / Splits and passes, sister to The brown arc/ Of the neck I cannot catch (3-8). Itisthebreakneckspeedofthehorsewhichhasbeen hintedataltogetherwithitsatonenesswiththerider- speaker ——“How one we grow”(5). And, “What counts here is acceleration, not allusion” (Blessing 65).Thepoembeginswithanimperceptibleperception of ‘Stasis in darkness’ and ends with the supra- sensuous perception of stasis in the radiance of “the red/ Eye, the cauldron of morning”.And in between these two stases we envisage the tinsel vision of “substance-less blue”(2) and “pour of tor and distances”(3). Half- formed statements spoken in extremis by the speaker refer to the intensity and extremity of the situation and the poem progresses sustained only by the permeable and conducive vocabulary, catalectic syntaxes, off-beat placement of words, half formed sentences and use of dashes mostly for breaking the continuity of thought. The rider –speaker’s horse-riding experience appears sharable only with the courage, rightness, audacity, and ease of her own inspiration and, that too, at our ownrisk.Themetaphoricalimageof‘God’slioness’ in the second stanza tantalizes us. It is ambiguous as to whether this ‘lioness’ stands for the rider-speaker orforthegeldingsheisriding. Ormaybe,Plathused thismetaphorforthepossessionofcreative“demonic powers” (Alvarez 14,24). Otherwise, to address geldingaslionesswouldresorttogenderfallacy.We hear the speaker of Plath’s “Purdah” (31 Oct. 1962) unleashing a lioness from within herself.And as has beenstatedearlier,thehorsehasnotbeenmentioned lexically even once in the poem, nor do we hear its “hoof-taps”(17)or“mercilesschurn”(15)aswedoin “Words” and “Years” by Plath. All these referents havestrategicallybeenback-groundedherein“Ariel”. The poetic strategy that Plath has adopted in this poem is to push communication as an objective of expression to the background and to bring the act of speech or expression itself into the foreground. Application of this poetic strategy makes even unnatural and incompatible elements sound poetically natural and compatible— a “God’s lioness”(4) (the rider speaker) riding a gelding or an equestrienne riding a lioness (the horse ‘Ariel’). Absenceofboththesubjectandtheobjectinthefirst stanza implies the loss of contact between the rider- speaker and the horse she is riding. The latter has been hinted at only by “the brown arc/ Of the neck I cannot catch”(8-9). We are wary of the awesome speed of the horse as well as of the rider’s feeling not only of stasis which involves the stoppage of her blood circulation but also of homeostasis— a psychosomatic feeling of inner void created in her mind. In the state of homeostasis, one’s mind goes blank and the world whooshes away in void. As Anirban has it: In the void, the primordial energy is simply existing. In its very essence, it is both dynamic and passive, the two distinctive forces which are always fighting within us (137). These twain feelings of stasis and homeostasis have been set off against the kinetic gallop of the horse ‘Ariel’.But,ifwegobytherider-speaker’shalf-formed statements, it is neither the feeling of stasis nor of homeostasisbutof“somethingelse”(15)that‘hauls’ her: - through the air Thighs,hair;/Flakesfrommyheels/White/Godiva, I unpeel —/Dead hands, dead stringencies And now I Foam to wheat a glitter of seas (16-23). The word ‘haul’ implies the application of effort, of violentforce.Whilesharingvicariouslytheequestrian experienceoftherider-speaker,weoscillatebetween her psychosomatic states of stasis and kinesis. The horse‘Ariel’,the‘arrow’,andthe‘dew’areallinflight andyetatonewiththe‘God’slioness’,inastand-still position. Perception of stasis in kinesis and vice versahavebeenfusedandconfusedwithoneanother in the poem. Of several paradoxes that have raised modern problems of time and space, “motion is an illusion” had been pointed out by the Greek philosopherZenoofElea(490-430BC).Sinceanarrow in flight must occupy a determinate space at each instant and, therefore, it must be at rest. Plath makes her poetic persona create for herself a self-image of thelegendaryLadyGodiva(1040-1080AD)whohad ridden naked through the streets at noon on the condition that her husband Leofric, Earl of Mercea, reduced the heavy taxes levied on the people of
  3. 3. International Reseach Journal,November,2010 ISSN-0975-3486 RNI: RAJBIL 2009/300097 VOL-I *ISSUE 14 55RESEARCH ANALYSIS AND EVALUATION Coventry.However,theimaginedGodivariding‘Ariel’ inthepoemcontrastsmarkedlywiththefactualGodiva of the legend. The focus in the poem is on Godvia as subject rather than as spectacle. Reference to the legendary voyeur— the peeping Tom who turned blind because he had peeped sneakily at Godiva ridingahorsenakedinbroaddaylight—tooismissing in the poem. And, instead of peeling “dead hands”, “dead stringencies”, and “white flakes” from her “heels”, the imagined Godiva in the poem speaks solecistically of unpeeling them. Her foaming to “wheat a glitter of seas” (23) resorts to her extreme nervousness. The image of Godiva in the poem is morescaringmorethanthatofthelegendaryone.She feelstohavebeenhauled“throughtheair”notbythe “Niggereye”(10),“Hooks”(12),“Blacksweetblood mouthfuls”(13), and “shadows”(14), but by “something else” (15) — that is by the deadly gallop of ‘Ariel’. We are led from the visual and tactile perception of the peeling (or unpeeling) off of white ‘flakes’fromher‘heels’,tothepeeling(orunpeeling) off of the outer layers of her false selves— “Dead hands” and “dead stringencies”(21). This act of stripping off of her false selves is reminiscent of the stripping off of “old whore petticoats” (53) by the speaker of “Fever 1030 ”(20 Oct. 1962) and “old bandages, boredoms, old faces” (66) by the speaker of “Getting There” (6 Nov., 1962). The auditory perception of the “cry of a baby” (61) audible at the endof“ABirthdayPresent”(30Sept.1962)transforms itselfintothevisualperceptionofa“child’scry”(24) that melts in the “wall” (25) in “Ariel”. This over- lexicalized “cry” of a “baby” or “child” in the late poemsofPlathseemstoservenospecificpurpose— symbolic or poetic.To associate this incidental “Cry ofbaby”(61)inPlath’slatepoemswiththecryofher own male baby Nicholas would merely be a biographicalfallacy. Thespeakerandthegalloping‘Ariel’sheis riding are not to be taken as separate entities independent of each other in the poem. The former exists only so long and so far as the motion of the latter lasts. The personal pronoun ‘I’ of the speaker undergoesmetamorphicchangesfromthe‘arrow’to the ‘dew’— both having aerial association. Both are also at one with the breakneck motion of ‘Ariel’ and the death-drive of the rider-speaker. Their flight has beenmadevisuallyaswellassymbolicallyeffective. And, since the duality of life and death is to be transcended only by the act of dying or death, the rider, the horse, the arrow, and the dew all must fly towards the Sun— into the cauldron of morning and be done away with. Though the Sun is the source of lifeanddeathboth,itimpliesfortheriderspeakerwho isintentonridingherhorse,likeCharonintotheSun, onlydeath.Thetwainimagesofthe“redEye”andthe “Cauldron of morning”(30-31) for the sun are sensuously evocative. The image of “red Eye” also symbolizes the discriminative path of wisdom. The sun is target of all— the arrow, the dew, and the rider speaker.The“dew”that“makesastar”(28)in“Death & Co.” (14 Nov. 1962) evanesces into the sun in “Ariel”.Thearrowtoohasasymbolicreferenceinthe poem. LiketheUpanishadicarrow,itsymbolizessoul that transcends life through death: Aum is the bow, Atman is the arrow Brahman, they say is the target to be pierced (541). Onlytheshootingbowofthe“arrow”(27)inflightis nowhereinevidenceinthepoem.Theword“suicidal” (28) qualifies the death-drive of the rider –speaker who is at one with the ‘Ariel’, the ‘arrow’, and the ‘dew’——all flying towards the sun. The suicidal flightof‘God’slioness’ridingthegalloping‘Ariel’is also referable to the “up-flight of the murderess into a heaven that loves her” (48) in “The Bee meeting” (3Oct.,1962)andtothe‘Queenbee’whoin“Stings” (6Oct.,1962)is:1-FlyingMoreterriblethansheever was,red Redscarinthesky,redcomet(56-58).And, to conclude, the aerial flight of ‘Ariel’ is also reminiscent of Emily Dickinson’s flighty Horses headingtowards“Eternity”(24)in“BecauseICould not Stop for Death”(712). And over and above, it is therider-speaker,notthehorse‘Ariel’,whois‘dying to fly and be done with it’ like the “Christus/The awful” in “Years”(16Nov. 1962) by Sylvia Plath. WorksCited Alvarez, A. The Savage God: A Study of Suicide. London:WiedenfeldNicolson.1971.Print. Anirban, Sri. Letters from a Baul : Life Within Life. Caclutta:Sri AurobindoPathmandir.1983.Print. Berke, Roberta. Bounds out of Bounds. New York : OUP.1981.Print. Blessing,RichardAllen.“Theshape of the Psyche: Vision and Technique in the Late poemsofSylviaPlath”.GaryLane.Ed.SylviaPlath: NewViewsonthePoetry.Baltimore:JohnsHopkins University Press. 1979. Print. ,,Richard Allen. TheodoreRoethke’sDynamicVision.Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 1974. Print.Boccaccio, Giovanni.“TheFourteenthBookoftheGenealogyof the Gentile Gods”. James Harry Smith and Edd WinfieldParks.Comp.&Ed.TheGreatCritics.New York:W.W.Norton&Company. 1951. Print. Burke, Kenneth.“PoeticProcess”.WilburS.Scott.Ed.Five Approaches toLiteraryCriticism.NewYork.Collier Books.1962.Print.Dickinson,Emily.“BecauseIcould not Stop for Death”. Thomas H Johnson. Ed. The
  4. 4. International Reseach Journal,November,2010 ISSN-0975-3486 RNI: RAJBIL 2009/300097 VOL-I *ISSUE 14 56 RESEARCH ANALYSIS AND EVALUATION CompletePoemsofEmilyDickinson.Delhi:Kalyani Publishers.1960.Print.Dyne,SusanRVan.Revising Life: Sylvia Plath’s Ariel Poems. The University of NorthCarolinaPress.1993.Print.Fiedelson,Charles Jr. & Korb, Paul Brodt Jr. Ed. Interpretations of AmericanLiterature.London.OUP.1971.Print.Fowler, Roger.LinguisticCriticism.Oxford:OUP.1988.Print. Howard,Richard.“SylviaPlath:AndIhaveNoface, IHaveWantedtoEffaceMyself”.CharlesNewman. Ed. The Art of Sylvia Plath: A Symposium. Bloomington.IndianaUniversityPress.1970.Print. Hughes,Ted.“NotesonPoems:1956-63”Ed.Sylvia Plath:CollectedPoems.London:Feber&Faber.1981. Print.,, ,,.“NotesonArielPoems”CharlesNewman. Ed. TheArt of Sylvia Plath:ASymposium. London: Faber & Faber. 1970. Print. Johnson,Thomas H. Ed. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson.Delhi: KalyaniPublishers.1960.Print.Lane,Gary.Ed.Sylvia Plath: New Views on the Poetry. Baltimore: Johns HopkinsUniversityPress.1979.Print.Levine,Miriam. TheJournalsofSylviaPlath.AmericanBookReview. 1983. Print.Mahanar Upanishad : 541. Raimundo Pannikar. Trans. & Ed. The Vedic Experience. Pondicherry: All India Books. 1977. Print. Mukarovsky, Jan. Quotd. Roger Fowler. Linguistic Criticism.OUP1988.Print.Newman,Charles.Ed.The Art Of Sylvia Plath: A Symposium.Bloomington: IndianaUniversityPress.1970.Print.Orr,Peter.Ed. PoetsSpeak.London:Routledge&KeganPaul.1966. Print.Pannikar,Raimundo,Ed.TheVedicExperience. Pondicherry: All India Books. 1977. Print. Plath, Aurelia Schober. Ed. Sylvia Plath. Letters Home. London: Feber&Faber.1977.Print.Plath,Sylvia.Ted HughesEd..SylviaPlath:CollectedPoems.London: Faber & Faber. 1981. Print. Scott,Wilbur S.Ed. Five ApproachestoLiteraryCriticism.NewYork:Collier Books.1962.Print.Smith,HarryJamesandParks,Edd Winfield. Ed. The Great Critics.New York: W.W. Norton&Company.1951.Print.Tate,Allen.“Emily Dickinson”. Charles Fiedelson Jr. and Paul Brodt korb. Jr. Ed. Interpretations ofAmerican Literature. London:OUP.1971.Print.TimesLiterarySupplement: Essays & Reviews. London: OUP. 1966. Print. Upshall,Michael.Ed.TheHutchinsonEncyclopaedic Dictionary. New Second Edition. Oxford: Helicon PublishingLtd.1994.Print.