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Villanelles by Sylvia Plath?
June 20, 2006 3:53 PM   Subscribe

Did Sylvia Plath write any villanelles besides 'Mad Girl's Love Song'?

I doubt it, but a commentor on my site asked, so I figured I may as well make a half-hearted effort to find out.
posted by Firas to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I wrote the movie SYLVIA. I read all her poems during research, and I didn't remember any others, but Google throws up this oddity:

http://oldpoetry.com/opoem/30457

It reads like juvenilia, if it's genuine.

Denouement Villanelle

by Sylvia Plath

The telegram says you have gone away
And left our bankrupt circus on its own;
There is nothing more for me to say.

The maestro gives the singing birds their pay
And they buy tickets for the tropic zone;
The telegram says you have gone away.

The clever woolly dogs have had their day
They shoot the dice for one remaining bone;
There is nothing more for me to say.

The lion and the tigers turn to clay
And Jumbo sadly trumpets into stone;
The telegram says you have gone away.

The morbid cobra's wits have run astray;
He rents his poisons out by telephone;
There is nothing more for me to say.

The colored tents all topple in the bay;
The magic saw dust writes: address unknown.
The telegram says you have gone away;
There is nothing more for me to say.
posted by unSane at 4:02 PM on June 20, 2006 [2 favorites]


The internet seems to be telling me "Denouement" is genuine Plath. It's mentioned here as "a decent villanelle", and a typescript with that title is included in this collection of her papers.

Here's the clincher, though: it's included as juvenilia in this collection. So nice call, unSane.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:16 PM on June 20, 2006


Plath wrote several villanelles when she was in college -- her professors were consistently impressed with her technical aptitude for them. Here is another from googling, about her father. I am sure that I read these before either in the collected poems, the journals, or in the back of the Bell Jar where the Mad Girl's Love Song was first published.

Lament

A Villanelle
The sting of bees took away my father
who walked in a swarming shroud of wings
and scorned the tick of the falling weather.

Lightning licked in a yellow lather
but missed the mark with snaking fangs:
the sting of bees too away my father.

Trouncing the sea like a ragin bather,
he rode the flood in a pride of prongs
and scorned the tick of the falling weather.

A scowl of sun struck down my mother,
tolling her grave with golden gongs,
but the sting of bees took away my father.

He counted the guns of god a bother,
laughed at the ambush of angels’ tongues,
and scorned the tick of the falling weather.

O ransack the four winds and find another
man who can mangle the grin of kings:
the sting of bees took away my father
who scorned the tick of the falling weather.
posted by onlyconnect at 9:13 AM on June 21, 2006


Yes. Three more from googling and finding this site. I'm positive I've read the first two elsewhere (at the back of The Bell Jar? Collected Poems in the juvenilia in the back?); I'm less certain about the last one:

To Eva Descending the Stair

Clocks cry: stillness is a lie, my dear;
The wheels revolve, the universe keeps running.
(Proud you halt upon the spiral stair.)

The asteroids turn traitor in the air,
And planets plot with old elliptic cunning;
Clocks cry: stillness is a lie, my dear.

Red the unraveled rose sings in your hair:
Blood springs eternal if the heart be burning.
(Proud you halt upon the spiral stair.)

Cryptic stars wind up the atmosphere,
In solar schemes the tilted suns go turning;
Clocks cry: stillness is a lie, my dear.

Loud the immortal nightingales declare:
Love flames forever if the flesh be yearning.
(Proud you halt upon the spiral stair.)

Circling zodiac compels the year.
Intolerant beauty never will be learning.
Clocks cry: stillness is a lie, my dear.
(Proud you halt upon the spiral stair.)

--Sylvia Plath


Doomsday

The idiot bird leaps out and drunken leans
Atop the broken universal clock:
The hour is crowed in lunatic thirteens.

Our painted stages fall apart by scenes
While all the actors halt in mortal shock:
The idiot bird leaps out and drunken leans.

Streets crack through in havoc-split ravines
As the doomstruck city crumbles block by block:
The hour is crowed in lunatic thirteens.

Fractured glass flies down in smithereens;
Our lucky relics have been out in hock:
The idiot bird leaps out and drunken leans.

God's monkey wrench has blasted all machines;
We never thought to hear the holy cock:
The hour is crowed in lunatic thirteens.

Too late to ask if end was worth the means,
Too late to calculate the toppling stock:
The idiot bird leaps out and drunken leans,
The hour is crowed in lunatic thirteens.

--Sylvia Plath


Admonitions

Oh never try to knock on rotten wood
or play another card game when you've won;
never try to know more than you should.

The magic golden apples all look good
although the wicked witch has poisoned one.
Oh never try to knock on rotten wood.

From here the moon seems smooth as angel-food,
from here you can't see spots upon the sun;
never try to know more than you should.

The suave dissembling cobra wears a hood
and swaggers like a proper gentleman;
oh never try to knock on rotten wood.

While angels wear a wakeful attitude
disguise beguiles and mortal mischief's done:
never try to know more than you should.

For deadly secrets strike when understood
and lucky stars all exit on the run:
never try to knock on rotten wood,
never try to know more than you should.

--Sylvia Plath

I'm positive she wrote these because I read them in high school and fell in love with villanelles. Hope this helps.
posted by onlyconnect at 9:32 AM on June 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


Nice surprise, thanks all!
posted by Firas at 1:22 PM on June 21, 2006


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