On Sylvia’s 30th Birthday

October 27, 1962, she writes about “Ariel.”
An airy spirit from Shakespeare’s The Tempest
and the horse she would sometimes ride.
All captured, trapped, until “Then to the
elements, be free, and fare thou well.’

 

Prospero commanding Ariel by John White Abbott (1763–1851)

The following February after writing the poem – on February 11, 1963 – Sylvia would commit suicide. The poem was published after her death.

You can read Plath’s poems at poetryfoundation.org and see her original handwritten copy and learn more about the poem at uk/20th-century-literature

Ophelia

 

Ophelia was only twenty-two.

They say she drowned in a small brook.

A branch broke and dropped her.

Unlikely – both the branch and the shallow brook.

She was sad. Perhaps, mad.

The brook, to the river, to the sea.

Not death but part of something larger.

Fresh water. Salt.

At the Beach with Sylvia Plath

Photo of Sylvia Plath from Gordon Ames Lameyer Papers probably from the Summer of 1953.

Sylvia Plath during a beach holiday in 1953, three years before she met Ted Hughes, and 10 years before her death. (photo from the Gordon Ames Lameyer Papers)

Even some who never read your poetry,
know about your suicide, troubled marriage, depression,
and life in the bell jar vacuum.

This cold day, I see you young,
a happy, blonde, dreaming on a beach.