Wednesday, 5 May 2010

I am Vertical

But I would rather be horizontal.
I am not a tree with my root in the soil
Sucking up minerals and motherly love
So that each March I may gleam into leaf,
Nor am I the beauty of a garden bed
Attracting my share of Ahs and spectacularly painted,
Unknowing I must soon unpetal.
Compared with me, a tree is immortal
And a flower-head not tall, but more startling,
And I want the one's longevity and the other's daring.

Tonight, in the infinitesimal light of the stars,
The trees and flowers have been strewing their cool odors.
I walk among them, but none of them are noticing.
Sometimes I think that when I am sleeping
I must most perfectly resemble them--
Thoughts gone dim.
It is more natural to me, lying down.
Then the sky and I are in open conversation,
And I shall be useful when I lie down finally:
Then the trees may touch me for once,
and the flowers have time for me.

Sylvia Plath in I am Vertical manages to convey depression in a way that is moving and beautiful. I also find the beginning of the poem almost humorous, the title, “I am vertical” followed by the witty rejoinder – “but I would rather be horizontal.” Plath spends most of the poem describing what she is NOT, and she most emphatically feels she is not a part of nature, part of mankind’s pain is to be separate from nature, lacking its beauty and simplicity.
Plath’s sentiments remind me of the line in The love song of Alfred. J. Prufrock, “I should have been a pair of ragged claws, scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” Plath does not feel she belongs or fits in, only when she is asleep with “thoughts gone dim” does she “most perfectly” harmonise with nature. The most heartbreaking part of the poem is surely the line, “I shall be useful when I lie down finally.” The conviction that your life lacks meaning, that you will be more useful and natural as manure than as a living human being, conveys the two ingredients which fuel any depression, a sense of worthlessness and a sense of hopelessness. To feel either of these you must be able to grasp the idea of being and of time; the gift of acute consciousness, our human ability to think and feel in a way that no other part of nature can, is, so often, a curse and not a blessing.

1 comment:

  1. You've hit the nail on the head, as usual. Today I took the funeral of a young gay person who committed suicide. Despair is not, of course, limited to those of same-sex orientation.
    But God give us all the sensitivity and compassion to reach out a hand to those who are drowning. ([He] bitter felt it still to die/Deserted, and his friends so nigh.)
    And without going under ourselves ( we perish each alone. But I beneath a rougher sea/and whelmed in deeper gulfs than he).
    I'm sure you'll be able to spot the quotation, Sue!
    Iffy Vicar