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“Morning Song” was written in February 1961 by Sylvia Plath after the birth of her first child, Frieda Rebecca Hughes. The theme of the poem is motherhood and the process by which it is obtained. It deals with maternal instincts and its awakening. Plath avoids sentimentality in taking up the subject of becoming a mother in a fatherly way. A woman does not come to motherhood merely by giving birth to a child. New behaviour is learned in the process of bringing a child up. The being of the mother is as new as the being of the child. Even the speaker listening to the child’s sounds of cry and getting fascinated is not self-willed or under her control. She follows her instinct “one cry and I stumble from bed”. Her child sings to her with a “Morning Song” and a bond is established with the help of language gradually.

The theme has been presented by means of imagery, similes and metaphors in free-verse. The poem contains six stanzas and each stanza has three unrhymed lines of different lengths, thus giving it all the characteristics of a modern poem. 

“Love” is the initial word in the poem and simultaneously the mother speaker in this poem addresses her recently-born baby. The creativity of “love”, motherhood and midwifery is fore grounded in the opening lines. Using her often favoured figurative mode of the simile Sylvia Plath emphasises the golden-pink, “Titian”, shades of the infant’s flesh: “Love set you going like a fat gold watch”. 

All through the poem we find the great affection and tenderness, the mother feels for her child. She is protective, waking to listen to the baby’s cries to which she responds immediately. It is not that Sylvia Plath feels alienated from infant (as some critics have suggested). Rather she senses the child’s individuality. She knows that it is not simply an extension of herself. This why she says, “Love set you going.” In the third stanza, using the natural imagery of clouds and the wind, she reminds the child that she is not looking in a mirror when she gazes at it. 

The child’s natural aspect is projected at the beginning of stanza Four. Its soft breath is compared to “moth-breath” that “flickers” (vibrates) among the “flat pink roses” (lifeless soft roses). The comic picture of the mother may be traced in her earnestness, her physical and perhaps emotional ineptitude, her shapelessness (“cow-heavy”) and also her mild vanity. (She wears an anachronistic Victorian nightgown with floral motifs). Self-deprecating and self-effacing, she performs appropriate rites of motherhood, her natural as well as cultural duty. 

There are other lines that suggest that the mother is rather awestruck by the arrival of her first born, notably the second stanza. Here a celebration is taking place immediately after the birth (line 1), and in a daze, the new parents “stand round blankly as wall”. These words suggest that a life-changing event has occurred; but the image of the baby as a ‘statue’ in a ‘museum’ and the child’s shadow protecting its parents or threatening their safety seem to be ambiguous. However we feel that this child is a precious, unique creature. 

We can say that Sylvia Plath has successfully displayed in her poem “Morning Song”, the experience of being a pew mother, her reflective and occasionally uneasy joy at her firstborn child.

Write a critical appreciation of "Morning Song"


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