Sunday, July 12, 2009

Winter Bees - Sylvia Plath Poetry . .

Below are 2 of my favourite Sylvia Plath poems centered around bees with her very unusual understanding and slightly mad interpretations. Sylvia, born in Boston USA, had a short but interesting life, suffering from depression after a breakdown during her college years. Her father kept bees and had written 2 books about bees - Sylvia had a very close relationship with her father and was devastated after he died.
Her marriage to English poet Ted Hughes produced 2 children, but the unhappy, unbalanced woman committed suicide in 1963 in England.


Sylvia Plath 1932-1963

This is the easy time, there is nothing doing.

I have whirled the midwife`s extractor,
I have my honey,
Six jars of it,
Six cat`s eyes in the wine cellar,

Wintering in a dark without window
At the heart of the house
Next to the last tenants rancid jam
and the bottles of empty glitters ....
Sir So-and-So`s gin.

This is the room I have never been in
This is the room I could never breathe in.
The black bunched in there likle a bat,
No light
But the torch and its faint

Chinese yellow on appalling objects ....
Black asininity. Decay.
It is they who own me.
Neither cruel nor indifferent,

Only ignorant.
This is the time of hanging on for the bees...the bees
so slow I hardly know them,
Filing like soldiers
To the syrup tin

To make up the honey I`ve taken.
Tate and Lyle keeps them going,
The refined snow.
It is Tate and Lyle they live on, instead of flowers.
They take it. The cold sets in.

Now they ball in a mass,
Mind against all that white.
The smile of the snow is white.
It spreads itself out, a mile long body of Meissen,

Into which, on warm days,
They can only carry their dead.
The bees are all women,
Maids and the long royal lady.
They have got rid of the men,

The blunt, clumpsy stumblers, the boors.
Winter is for women ....
The woman, still at her knitting,
At the cradle of Spanish walnut,
Her body a bulb in the cold and too dumb to think.

Will the hive survive, will the gladiolas
Succeed in banking their fires
To enter another year ?
What will they taste of, the Christmas roses ?
The bees are flying. They taste the spring.


Square as a chair and almost too heavy to lift.
I would say it was the coffin of a midget
Or a square baby
Were there not such a din in it.

The box is locked, it is dangerous.
I have to live with it overnight
And I can't keep away from it.
There are no windows, so I can't see what is in there.
There is only a little grid, no exit.

I put my eye to the grid.
It is dark, dark,
With the swarmy feeling of African hands
Minute and shrunk for export,
Black on black, angrily clambering.

How can I let them out?
It is the noise that appalls me most of all,
The unintelligible syllables.
It is like a Roman mob,
Small, taken one by one, but my god, together!

I lay my ear to furious Latin.
I am not a Caesar.
I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.
They can be sent back.
They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner.

I wonder how hungry they are.
I wonder if they would forget me
If I just undid the locks and stood back and turned into a tree.
There is the laburnum, its blond colonnades,
And the petticoats of the cherry.

They might ignore me immediately
In my moon suit and funeral veil.
I am no source of honey
So why should they turn on me?
Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free.

The box is only temporary.

1 comment:

Richard Underhill said...

Ngaio, What a pleasure it is to read your postings. I will share your most interesting pieces with beekeepers on this opposite side of the world. I hope that you continue to find interest in activity around Peace Bee Farm. We share the same passion for beekeeping, observing the natural world, protecting the environment, enjoying friends and family. Best wishes to you.
Richard Underhill,
Peace Bee Farm,
Proctor, Arkansas, USA