Black Rook in Rainy Weather
Black Rook in Rainy WeatherSylvia PlathPg. 177Journals, April 1953If only something would happen! Something being the revelation that transfigures existence; works a miraculous presto-chango upon the mundane mortal world turning the toads and cockroaches back into handsome fairy princes.
Context:Sylvia Plath was always aware of the need for inspiration to trigger her creative impulse: she hoped for a moment of insight, a miracle, enabling her to create. Plath wrote this poem at a time when she was finding it a struggle to write, despite her conviction that writing was her lifes work. The poem comes from Plaths first collection The Colossus.
To note:Plaths poetry is usually focused on her inner self, her feelings and thoughts even when she appears to be writing about the outside world. She uses her immediate surroundings as a metaphor for her feelings and ideas.Poem in a nutshell!This is a poem about poetry, about the agonising wait for inspiration that makes a poem possible. Throughout history, poets have been inspired by nature, by birds, storms and sunsets. In this poem Plath longs the nature to speak to her, to provide her with inspiration for a poem.Poems titleThe title sets the tone and atmosphere of this poem, with both adjectives Black and Rainy suggesting gloom. The bird she sees is also dark and forbidding and the opening lines give us an image of something dull and almost boring
On the stiff twig up there Hunches a wet black rook Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain.
The title sets the scene for the poems content.
Verses in detailIt is late autumn or early winter, what Plath memorably describes as the season of fatigue.The weather is desultory - dull, miserable, wet.The speaker is looking at this weather and the countryside which is a dull ruinous landscape she sees a black rook drenched by the rain and hunched over on a branch. Verse OnePlaths mood is low-key; lacking in expectation and hope. Nothing wonderful or special is expected here.I do not expect a miracle Or an accident To set the sight on fire In my eye
Verse TwoPlath seems to be saying that inspiration has deserted her her imagination cannot create more from what she sees. She also seems to be saying that she is not even looking for this to happen.
Verse ThreeThere is a slight change in tone indicated by the word Although and the I admit, I desire which follows this suggests a quiet longing the commas here also adding a hesitancy to the line. Plath would like nature to inspire her, to give her some backtalk.She has experienced such moments of backtalk before. They are minor, but nonetheless, have been significant to her.Verse Four: InspirationTo be inspired is to experience a radianceThis visionary experience is described in terms of heavenly generosity and love, highlighted by the religious/spiritual vocabulary.Plath seems to be implying here that poetic inspiration is a gift from heaven; it is not within the control of the poet to decide when she will be inspired. She must just wait for it to happen, remaining aware that it may come at any time.
Verses Five-EightThe final section of the poem describes that awareness, that waiting for an inspired moment to come until then she cannot write.She is waiting for an angel to flare something inspired her way.The angel symbolises inspiration or vision for the poet. The tone of the poem lifts a little here there is a growing optimism, albeit it tempered by words such as sceptical and even.
It is at this point in the poem that the rook is mentioned again this time more positively. Plath is more certain that this image can inspire and her language here is much more positive, particularly in the use of verbs ordering, shine, seize, haul
N.B. Verse SevenA brief respite from fear Of total neutrality
These two lines are the emotional centre of the poem. Plath is showing us that without the inspiration to write, her life will be nothing a blank. She will exist in a state of non-being.
Verse EightPlath is determined to be positive, to be inspired as miracles occurShe is determined overcome neutrality, to seek inspiration by trekking stubborn through this dull time. Trekking - brilliantly captures the effort and determination involved in pushing herself forward
EndingThe poem ends with her patiently waiting for the descent of the angel inspiration. It may be rare and random, but without it, there is nothing. Plaths choice of the word rare suggests not just that inspiration does not come often, but that when it does come, it is something special and precious. This allows the poem to end on a significantly more optimistic note than it began.
LANGUAGEThe poem has a hidden rhyme scheme in which the first lines of each stanza rhyme or almost rhyme (there-fire-desire-chair) as do the second lines and so on...This even flow resembles the flow of inspiration the poet seeks in a random and chaotic world.Adjective dull, ruinous depict the gloomy atmosphere. Leaves and rain falling nature is also worn out, tired.Use of PERSONIFICATION: Inspiration (an abstract quality) is depicted as a kind of person a supernatural angel who descends from heaven.Religious Imagery for someone who said she would never speak to God again-she refers to artistic inspiration 3 times as a miracle-Twice refers to angelTo Plath, her poetry and her artistic inspiration is her religion. Assonance VS AlliterationInspiration (an abstract quality) is depicted as a kind of person a supernatural angel who descends from heaven.ALLITERATION:-Seen in lines 29-30 with repeated s sounds-Seen in line 40 with its repeated r soundsThis creates a pleasant verbal music which suits the change in tone hopeful, optimistic as she awaits inspiration.THEMES:1. Poetic Inspiration Plath sees poetic inspiration as rare, yet awe-inspiring. To her, it is a holy and sacred event and associated with the descent of angels. When inspired Plath sees thing in a new light captured in Plaths imagery of incandescent burning and brightness.It is also important to note that Plath sees inspiration as random or an accident.It is not something we can actively seek out we must be in the right place, at the right time. 2. Mental Anguish: One of Plaths most recurring themes is evident here.This poem depicts artistic insecurity. Plath dreads the sense of total neutrality, losing her poetic talent. It is a time when she experiences writers block.This despair linked to the grey, blank and passionless scene set in Verse One.She fears this scene will never be interrupted by light or inspiration, leaving her in a limbo.3. Psychic Landscapes: Plath uses psychic landscapes scenes from nature to convey her inner state of mind.Here, the speakers dull and uninspired state of mind is reflected in the dull ruinous landscapeThe speakers dark, dull mind symbolised by the rook.