Denis Donoghue, a literary criticstated, “I can’t recall feeling, in 1963, that Plath’s death proved her life authentic or indeed that proof was required. … But I recall that Ariel was received as if it were a bracelet of bright hair about the bone, a relic more than a book.” Sylvia Plath’s poetry was not known outside the poetry circles while she lived and it was her death that shot her to fame. Most of her poems had death as either the main theme or came in as a visitor. All through her life she was haunted by death and when she eventually took her life, everyone believed that there was integrity in her poems and that she was a ‘confessional poet’. Her collection of poems that was published after her death, Ariel, made Plath one of the renowned female American poets of the 20th century. Born on October 27th 1932, Plath began to write at the age of 8. She turned out voluminous works till her death on February 11th 1963.
‘Morning Song’ is about the birth of child and this was written after her first daughter was born. The poet addresses the new baby. The baby was thought and formed out of love. Then the baby is born and midwife slaps the foot to make it cry and once the baby cries, the voice merges with the elements of the world. The next stanza speaks about the reaction of the family members. All stand around the baby, helpless like the walls. They are compared to people in a museum come to see statues. The baby is creating a shadow on the people around her. After the birth of the baby she is considered to be bigger than all that was seen until then.
In the next stanza the poet distances herself from the child saying that she is only a passing cloud in her life. Once the baby is back home the mother, the poet, is awake most of the night listening to her baby’s breath which is compared to a moth’s breath and sound of far-off sea. And if the baby cries in the night, she stumbles out of the bed to feed the baby in her Victorian night gown. The night slowly becomes day and the baby’s coos are compared to musical ‘notes’ and they are compared to vowels rising up like balloons.
The title ‘Morning Song’ betrays what the poem is because there is no rhyme or rhythm, song in the poem. It is a free verse. The poem has six three lines stanzas with no definite metrical pattern. As seen in many of her poems, the line breaks follows a pattern of speech. The comparisons used to describe the baby and its activities are most weird. Baby is compared to a ‘fat gold watch’; baby’s cry is ‘bald’; baby’s breathing is ‘moth’s breath’ and ‘far sea’. Comparing breathing to a moth is a literary device called synaesthesia. In this there is a mix up of the senses when something is described. For instance ‘hearing a puppy speak’, is an example of synaesthesia.
There is a conflict in the poem as in, the birth of the baby is considered to be man-made and then in some lines she says it is natural. By calling the baby a watch and statue she likens it to something created by man. But she also compares the baby to the elements and clouds. There was a conflict in Plath regarding motherhood. As a student she had stated “Graduate school and travel abroad are not going to be stymied by any squealing, breastfed brats”. Many women had given up their own life and interest to take of their children. When she gave birth to a child, she began to love her child and this was in contrast the ambivalence she had towards motherhood. This conflict in her is reflected in the poem as it is not a poem of sweet words for her baby; it might be the most dispassionate poem about a baby by her mother.