With this in mind, I thought I'd post one of Plath's lesser-known poems, one very different from the bilious charge of "Daddy" and the sororistic solipsism of "Ariel" and "Lady Lazarus" (good poems all, but too prone to give us a stereotyped Plath rather than a synoptic one). The poem provides us with a "gentler" Plath, one given to action and contemplation, but not to navel-gazing, and, as such, the poem reminds me more of poems like the stunning "Black Rook in Rainy Weather." Here it is:
Fable of the Rhododendron StealersIt's one of those anti-epiphanic vignette pieces that Plath does so well, and it features a sense of colour that one can come to miss in her writing. To read more of Plath's poems, follow this link right here. Let's just hope this reissue of the Ariel poems doesn't lead to the typical series of attacks on Hughes, especially now that he's no longer around to defend himself. Then again, he doesn't really need to: Birthday Letters pretty much says it all, or as much as any of us need to know. The rest, as Tom Eliot would say, is not our business.
I walked the unwalked garden of rose-beds
In the public park; at home felt the want
Of a single rose present to imagine
The garden’s remainder in full paint.
The stone lion-head set in the wall
Let drop its spittle of sluggish green
Into the stone basin. I snipped
An orange bud, pocketed it. When
It had opened its orange in my vase,
Retrogressed to blowze, I next chose red;
Argued my conscience clear which robbed
The park of less red than withering did.
Musk satisfied my nose, red my eye,
The petals' nap my fingertips:
I considered the poetry I rescued
From blind air, from complete eclipse.
Yet today, a yellow bud in my hand,
I stalled at sudden noisy crashes
From the laurel thicket. No one approached.
A spasm took the rhododendron bushes:
Three girls, engrossed, were wrenching full clusters
Of cerise and pink from the rhododendron,
Mountaining them on spread newspaper.
They brassily picked, slowed by no chagrin,
And wouldn't pause for my straight look.
But gave me pause, my rose a charge,
Whether nicety stood confounded by love,
Or petty thievery by large.