Ariel by Sylvia Plath | Poetry Analysis

For some reason, I was never able to properly appreciate this poem for what it is; it never clicked with me on a personal level as much as I know it does with others. Re-reading it this time around gave me a better appreciation of it though.

What the poem describes is basically a scenery of a woman riding on a horse and slowly being transformed

Even though there is something about the language, maybe it’s more the structure, that just puts me off, I really appreciated the imagery used in the poem, especially lines like: “the substanceless blue”
“God’s lioness”
“Something else hauls me through air”
“White Godiva, I unpeel” (which by the way, Lady Godiva’s story is just a treat of its own) “Into the red Eye, the cauldron of morning”

What I really appreciate about this poem is once more that it is more than it appears at first.
The title of this poem is hitting at many different things, and even after many reads, I was only aware of one. Ariel being another name for Jerusalem. But it is also a character appearing in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, as well as the name of Sylvia’s own horse. My heart is just so happy about references in poetry!

Funny enough, after having discussed The Thought Fox, ironically by Ted Hughes, this poem to me was always about the experience as a writer. That’s why I wanted to love it so much and was gutted when I felt so distant. It was always about the effects of creativity to me.
Now having read a little bit more about Sylvia’s life after, with this read, I saw Sylvia right in front of me. There are so many parallels looking at this ecstatic. Similar to the Thought-Fox, it’s the process from darkness into being able to put words on a paper, in Sylvia’s case even more passionately, though no less destructive.

It seems that for Plath writing poetry was almost a religious experience, which is clearly reflected in this poem, not just with the hint towards Jerusalem with the title but also “God’s lioness”

I need to talk about the Lady Godiva reference, because I just love her story.
Lady Godiva was pretty pissed at her husband for his outrages taxes and how the people suffered from that. He then said it would lower the taxes if you would ride naked on a horse, expecting her not to have the courage to do it. And now imagine what she did and who had to lower the taxes?
Now therefor this is totally heavy on female empowerment. But I think it’s also important to raise the question: Does Plath view poetry writing as an act for the greater good?


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