Morning Song: About the Poet
Credited as the exponent of confessional poetry, Sylvia Plath was mostly known for her two collections of poetry, The Colossus and Other Poems and Ariel. The American poet, short story writer, and novelist Plath was born in Boston and was married to Ted Hughes, a fellow writer whom she later divorced. The novel The Bell Jar, which was published shortly before her death, is considered a semi-autobiographical work. Her work The Collected Poems won her the Pulitzer Prize posthumously in the year 1982. The major part of her adult life was dominated by depression she suffered from, and ultimately in the year 1963, she gave up on life and committed suicide.
Morning Song: Setting
Morning Song was written in the year 1961 during the month of February. It was the time when her daughter Frieda entered her life. Motherly love is absent at the beginning of the poem, which
later gives way to the slow dawning of maternal instinctive emotions and care. The feeling grows with the growth of the child. The poem is an ode to the birth of her daughter.
Morning Song: Poetic Devices
Shadows our safety.”
The cloud “distills a mirror,”
the vowels “rise like balloons.”
the baby’s moth breath “flickers.”
“The window square
Whitens and swallows its dull stars.”
“I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.”
“Effacement at the wind’s hand.”
“Love set you going like a fat gold watch.”
“blankly as walls.”
“Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s.”
“vowels rise like balloons.”
Morning Song: Style
“Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your foot soles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.
Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.
I’m no more your mother.
Then, the cloud distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind’s hand.
All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.
One cry and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square
Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.”
The poet follows the free verse technique in her entire poem with no set rhyme scheme or meter.
Morning Song: Summary
The first stanza of the poem “Morning Song” is a narration of the birth of a child by the speaker of the poem and the mother. The child is a precious gift borne out of love, like a “fat gold watch.” As she steps into the new world out of the mother’s womb, the midwife helps to confirm life in the newborn by tapping the little feet. And the little child made its presence evident by letting out a “bald cry.”
The second stanza is a confession of the callous mother who greatly disdained motherhood. Her feelings are at arm’s length from what was told her to expect. The parents’ voice reflects the arrival of the child. It is being compared to a priceless statue in a museum. However, her presence is acknowledged with blankness felt by the senses.
She goes on to admit her alienation towards the maternal emotions by calling herself no more the child’s mother than a cloud that reflects its own quality through the help of other elements. Yet with time, motherhood gradually grows within her as she watches her child grow. The natural feeling comes as she stays awake, listening to the baby’s breath and staring at its pink cheeks. It becomes more or less a part of her life. One cry from her baby wakes her up, though involuntarily, she does go up to the child and feed her. As the baby’s hunger is calmed, it starts making sweet sounds as if she is trying to say something to her mother.
Morning Song: Analysis
The fact that maternal emotions are a product of constant try and not of automatic occurrence as perceived by many is discussed through the poem Morning Song. This poem is a confession by Plath about the numbness of blank emotions she went through during the birth of her child and the detachment she felt towards her offspring. Through images that are surreal and objective in words, she expresses the odds she had to go through during the time of childbirth and child-rearing.
The child is being compared to a surreal image of a “fat gold watch,” which is primarily an inanimate object. Through these images, the poet focuses on the mechanical act of lovemaking in the institution of marriage in a patriarchal society. The baby is just an outcome of such an act and not of the emotion called love. So expecting a natural upsurge of maternal love during motherhood is absurd. Childbirth is a natural phenomenon, while emotions are learned like a child’s first little behavior in this new world. The mother is born with the child. Until then, she is a woman with her own identity and emotions.
With the progressive emphasis on non-human elements and qualities compared to the acts of a child, childbirth, and child-rearing, we can find that the poet is pointing her finger toward the materialistic masculine approach to motherhood that prevailed in society during the twentieth century. However, as the poem moves towards its end, there is a smooth transition to the final awakening of maternal feelings in the speaker, with an ultimate focus on the natural feminine qualities intact in a detached woman.
Morning Song: Tone
The poem begins with a tone of detachment coupled with objectivity. These emotions are contradictory to the expected expression of maternal love and bondage in the world of mother and child. With pure honesty, the poet explores her callousness towards the offspring. She speaks of the child as something borne out of the act of lovemaking and not of love. The contrast in emotions is vividly exhibited through the strong images she imparts in the poem.
There is an enhancement in the tone as the poem moves toward its end. There is a gradual change from utter numbness of blank emotions to an awakening. Though, at first, the reciprocation is involuntary, there is a gradual transition into an emotional connection toward the child.
Morning Song: Plath’s Style
Plath is widely acclaimed for her unconventional confessional approach to poetry. She adorns her poems with a free verse style. The poem is an amalgamation of various poetic devices like imagery, personification, simile, and metaphor. With an obvious and uniform syntax of three lines in a stanza, the poem’s structure is intact until the end. With this uniformity, the poem attains an uninterrupted flow. The poem glides from stanza to stanza with a smooth transition of images. There is vivid usage of surreal imagery.
Morning Song: Central Idea
Through the poem Morning Song, Plath provides a strong insight into the alienation felt by a woman towards her maternal instincts during her motherhood. Secondly, how she gradually overcomes it naturally without even much effort from her own side. The poet wants to deal with motherhood in a patriarchal masculine way rather than with the feminist qualities endowed to her. A woman doesn’t attain the maternal bond just by giving birth to a child. Motherhood is a process learned and acquired with time. With the birth of a child, the birth of the mother takes place. As the child learns her lessons to be a child, the mother learns her lessons of motherhood. The growth is mutual.
The mother-child bond is considered the purest and most natural bond in the whole universe of relationships. Emotions are meant to be an inevitable part of a woman’s life. However, the poet wants to point out the fact that it is not the same as it is always perceived. A woman might not feel the maternal instincts even when a child is born, but there is a chance that this feminine nature shall grow into her as the child slowly becomes part of her life. That is when the emotions become mutual. This symbiotic relationship is attained as the outcome of a slow process of acceptance and understanding along with the upsurge of underlying characteristics of the gender as such. The poet wants to prove that no emotion is the outcome of already categorized perceptions. Instead is borne out of mutual consent and understanding of the situation. Time only proves how it shall grow and what it shall grow into.
Updated by Anjali Roongta on 19th April 2023.
Some online learning platforms provide certifications, while others are designed to simply grow your skills in your personal and professional life. Including Masterclass and Coursera, here are our recommendations for the best online learning platforms you can sign up for today.