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 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.
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.
Drawn to falls like lovers and suicides,
staring at the deep beauty and power,
being pulled in, carried to the edge –
a leap, flight, immersion, freedom from self,
becoming a part of the falls itself.
One leaves us by his own hand.
One that loved wisely but too well.
To sleep, when peaceful dreams may come.
May. If so, he knows. For us,
there’s tomorrow, and hopefully tomorrow, and tomorrow.
At 37 and depressed, Vincent shot himself.
Probably. No witnesses. In the wheat field
that he was painting much of late.
The bullet deflected passed through his chest
without much damage. He smoked his pipe.
Not a fatal shot but an infection.
He said “The sadness will last forever.”