Morning Song by Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath’s Morning Song predominantly uses metaphors to pass on its message. It revolves around a mother who has just delivered a baby and the experiences she has at home with her newborn. She describes the common event of how a baby cries soon after birth. The poem begins with the metaphor, “Love set you going like a fat gold watch”, meaning that the baby is a result of the love she shares with its father. Recognizing that the baby was born out of love affirms the affection she feels for it, accepting it as part of her. The “fat gold watch” has been used to symbolize just how much the mother values her child.
In the 2nd stanza, the phrase “new statue” has been used. The poet likens the hospital to a museum. People visit museums to study precious priceless artifacts. In the same way on the arrival of a new born, friends and family of the mother line up in the ward to get a glimpse of the baby, standing round blankly as walls. Ordinarily, statues are not found in the home. Rather, they are commonly kept in museums where everyone from distant lands can visit. The phrase “In a drafty museum” somehow distances the mother from her child. When it was still in the womb, the mother considered it a part of her. However, now that it has been born, it is a distinct separate creature. Stanza 3 says, “I’m no more your mother/ Than the cloud that distils a mirror to reflect its own slow/ Effacement at the wind’s hand.” Offspring do resemble there parents but ultimately, the mother recognizes the child as an independent being (Helle, 113).
“All night your moth-breath/ Flickers among the flat pink roses/ I wake to listen/ A far sea moves in my ear”, describes the sleepless nights experienced by the mother out of concern for her baby. She describes how the baby sleeps all night and even compares the sound it makes to that of the sea. “One cry and I stumble from bed…Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s.” A child crying could be a sign of hunger. The mother wakes up to feed the child who, as eager as a cat, is longing to feed on milk. “The window square whitens and swallows its dull stars” is a sign of morning. The youthful notes and vowels symbolize the slow but sure growth and development of the baby, further showing the mother’s acknowledgement of the child’s independence. All through the poem, the mother naturally feels close to her baby but also embraces the baby’s individuality.
Sex without Love by Sharon Olds
The poem is devoid of deep imagery. As the title suggests, it questions how two people can make love without being love. Olds has chosen to use irony to bring out what she is saying. “Beautiful dancers, gliding over each other like ice skaters over ice…” ice skating is a fun activity and by likening sex to ice skating, Olds means the activity is fun too and acceptable. Going deeper however, ice skating is only a performance, an act and a means to achieving momentary happiness. This helps in explaining how sex is used to experience short-lived pleasure. In addition, comparing sex to skating on ice brings out the coldness and lack of emotion in having sex without love.
The 6th line states, “Wet as the children at birth whose mothers are going to give them away.” Generally, children are meant to be a sign of joy, and giving them away causes grief. With this imagery, sex is portrayed as an act meant to bring joy. However, having sex without love and then abandoning your partner is likened to having a baby then giving it away. The poem also brings out the religious aspect. Olds scorns purists for believing that the pleasure experienced during sex comes from them and not from the other person. Purists have been portrayed as hypocritical as they refuse to worship a false Messiah but contradict themselves by loving the priest more than God.
Purists are in a quest for love but are often derailed by pleasure, and will eventually end up as loveless lovers. The metaphor of the great runner is used toward the end of the poem. Runners train mainly for physical fitness in readiness for a marathon. Likening a runner to sex without love means that sex is used for nothing more than physical fitness, only a means to an end with no thoughts of how it will be after the marathon. Olds uses these imageries to bring out today’s reality of loveless sex, a cold, impersonal activity purely meant for physical pleasure rather than to meet emotional needs (LaFollette 19).
Helle, Anita. The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2007. Print.
LaFollette, Hugh. The Oxford Handbook of Practical Ethics. London, UK: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.