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 Plath‘s 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 Hughes. The full title of the edition is, The Restored Edition, Ariel. A Facsimile of Plath’s Manuscript, Reinstating her Original Selection and Arrangement .
This means that the MSS that Plath had left containing the interleaved and co-dependent set of themes has been restored to its original music in 2004, 39 years after it’s first publication.
This may be difficult for someone who is not a writer of poetry to understand , but strangely enough Hughes encapsulated the process perfectly in his essays when he alluded to Plath’s process of creation as hermetically sealed. A book of poetry is not necessarily themed but unified in the interrelationship of the poems, their internal music, and the alchemy of words. 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.
‘ 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.
‘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
- Ariel, the Restored Edition , by Sylvia Plath
- Winter Pollen, Occasional Prose, by Ted Hughes
- Ariel 1965
- Sylvia Plath reading ‘Daddy’