Restored Music; Sylvia Plath’s ‘Ariel’

Restored Music : Sylvia Plath’s ‘Ariel’


The first edition of Ariel was published by Faber and Faber in 1965. I am not going to trawl the pit of controversy over the Hughes selection, it has been done. The arguments and counter-arguments are known to mostly all lovers of Plaths writing. I will point the general reader to Hughes’ opening salvo in his introduction to The Collected Plath, his Winter Pollen set of essays and to the foreword to the first edition of Ariel for that information.

The Restored Edition Ariel was published in 2004, with a foreword discussion by Frieda HughesThe full title of the edition is, The Restored Edition, Ariel. A Facsimile of Plath’s Manuscript, Reinstating her Original Selection and Arrangement . You can read Frieda Hughes’ foreword here.

This means that the Ariel MSS that Sylvia Plath had left containing its interleaved and codependent set of themes has been restored to its original music in 2004 (39 years after the Hughes edited publication). I feel that it should be the only collection of “Ariel” available, as it is uniquely Plath’s.

The above may be difficult for someone who is not a writer of poetry to understand, but ironically enough it was Hughes who perfectly described Plath’s approach to her making of the poem as hermetically sealed. It hid from her and she worked incredibly hard with many false starts to unearth the work. That was not the case with “Ariel”, which came absurdly quickly.

A book of poetry is not necessarily themed but unified in the interrelationship of the poems, the book’s internal music and the alchemy of words therein. Sometimes a poem is related intimately to another through a strange labyrinthine undercurrent of word and energy which may not be visible to the critic or academic.

As Frieda Hughes points out in her foreword, the two words love and spring  form the first and last word of The Restored Edition, in the poems, Morning Song and Wintering. This symbolises the internal music of Sylvia Plath’s volume and indeed the interrelationship of every internal sound, chosen word and interleaved theme. It is restored because the binder was retained , treasured and read by the family and her children.

39 years might be a time to wait for that restoration of music to its meaning, but interestingly it was always preserved intact, which readers of literature are aware does not always happen historically with words that enlighten, provoke or hurt..

from Morning Song, by Sylvia Plath.

(first verse)

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.

from Wintering , by Sylvia Plath.

(last verse)

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.’

EDIT : I am adding in here as the final link a YouTube of Sylvia Plath reading  Daddy

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