Admonition, Sylvia Plath – an Analysis


What am I being warned about or told off for doing?

Gut Reaction
Ooh. Like this imagery!

What does it all mean?
If you take advantage of something you’ll lose it, is my first thought, but it’s more than that. If you need to know everything about someone you’ll destroy your friendship by pushing too hard, as an example.

If you dissect a bird
To diagram the tongue
You’ll cut the chord
Articulating song.

Instead of trying to work out ‘how’ the bird can sign, or ‘why’ the bird can sing, just listen to his song. Otherwise he’ll stop singing altogether.
If you ask ‘why, why, why’ of someone, gradually they’ll pull away from you.

If you flay a beast
To marvel at the mane
You’ll wreck the rest
From which the fur began.

If you think something beautiful, admire it from afar – you don’t need to make a trophy of it? This speaks of overkill, doing too much.

If you pluck out the heart
To find what makes it move,
You’ll halt the clock
That syncopates our love.

Instead of trying to fathom how someone’s heart works, just let them love you? Don’t try and force them to love you more because the opposite might happen.

Form – the vaguely technical stuff
Division and order
A poem made up of three quatrains. Giving examples of when too much is, well, too much, then getting to the (probable) point about not overdoing it in love.

Wise? Condescending? Not sure!

Suggested rhyme scheme

Masculine rhyme with mostly run on lines, great use of pararhyme that also serves as visual rhyme (italicised).

Similes and metaphors
One big long metaphor about not overdoing it.

Author’s relationship with their subject
Um. Do as I say, not as I do? Learn from my mistakes?

Other points of view (ideas from other sources)
This one speaks a lot of not rushing into things and doesn’t seem to be as favoured as Plath’s other poems. I personally like it because it doesn’t feel as bleak as her others.
Plath led such a sad life is it any wonder she wrote such dark themes? She was/is beloved to those who love poetry because she had the talent to speak your darkest thoughts for you and in doing so, hopefully, make you see that everything was going to be okay.

Signing off
I wonder if this is a little… chastising, teasing the audience by saying, don’t read into poetry too much because it will lose its meaning. I like that idea 🙂 Plath isn’t what you would normally call a… ray of sunshine kind of poet. So this break away from her usual style is exciting for me.
I wonder at another ‘analysis’, that Plath was aware of our destruction of our environment, or even just saw what we do to animals and landscapes we think are particularly beautiful – dissect, prod, try to possess. Perhaps Admonition is a warning to appreciate things without destroying them.
Or just. That person? You know the one. The one you’ve imagined this idealised future with and planned out every conversation with. Just…back off a little. Stop trying to control the situation and analyse their every word, just because you hope to lead their words towards ones you want to hear. Just let things…be.
However you choose to interpret it, it seems to me that Plath makes a lot of sense. Too much, too soon, rushing into things, trying to force a situation to make it happen your way. Yep. Guilty as charged, many times over.


Sylvia Plath


All Poetry

When I read this I think of the song… Roller Disco Dreams


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