Black Rook

Black Rook In Rainy Weather  - Sylvia Plath #

This can be read as a response to Ted Hughes The Hawk in the Rain, in what may be reciprocal contests.  * *It appears to be her first impressions of the English countryside.  The poem has many other antecedents like Edgar Alan Poe’s The Raven,  Alfred Lord Tennyson’s The Eagle, or less likely Gerard Manly Hopkins' The Windhover.

Sylvia Plath writes evocatively about landscapes and nature.  Compared to Hughes, hers is more of a quest rather than an affirmation or a declamatory assertion of nature.  While hers is a search for communion and meaning, his appears to be claim of having found it.  Plath looks for soothing confirmation, while Hughes sees the savage, brutal ruthless aspects of survival.  Plath is looking for creative inspiration, expecting little, so content when she finds it.  Hughes demands it as his entitlement.

Plath uses natural imagery, not in the benevolent Romantic tradition, rather recognising its sinister possibilities.  The Rook is personified perhaps as a contrast or comparison to the persona.  

Black Rook In Rainy Weather

* On the stiff twig up there*

* Hunches a wet black rook*

* Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain-*

* I do not expect a miracle*

* Or an accident*

* To set the sight on fire*

* In my eye, nor seek*

* Any more in the desultory weather some design,*

* But let spotted leaves fall as they fall*

* Without ceremony, or portent.*

* Although, I admit, I desire,*

* Occasionally, some backtalk*

* From the mute sky, I can’t honestly complain:*

* A certain minor light may still*

* Lean incandescent*

* Out of kitchen table or chair*

* As if a celestial burning took*

* Possession of the most obtuse objects now and then —*

* Thus hallowing an interval*

* Otherwise inconsequent*

* By bestowing largesse, honor*

* One might say love. At any rate, I now walk*

* Wary (for it could happen*

* Even in this dull, ruinous landscape); sceptical*

* Yet politic, ignorant*

* Of whatever angel any choose to flare*

* Suddenly at my elbow. I only know that a rook*

* Ordering its black feathers can so shine*

* As to seize my senses, haul*

* My eyelids up, and grant*

* A brief respite from fear*

* Of total neutrality. With luck,*

* Trekking stubborn through this season*

* Of fatigue, I shall*

* Patch together a content*

* Of sorts. Miracles occur.*

* If you care to call those spasmodic*

* Tricks of radiance*

* Miracles. The wait’s begun again,*

* The long wait for the angel,*

* For that rare, random descent.*

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Language of Black Rook in Rainy Weather #

The lack of an article suggests any or all Rooks.    Like Poe’s The Raven, the atmosphere is languid, dull and dreary until stirred by a bird - a stimulus from above. 

The language is formal rather than relaxed and conversational.  Words like “desultory, portent, largesse, incandescent, inconsequence, obtuse and celestial” demand some effort.* * Is she searching for inspiration?

Like Poe’s The Raven or Hughes The Thought Fox, this could be a meta poem, one that writes itself.  The repetition of Miracle suggests success.

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References to light - “fire, minor light, incandescent, celestial burning, flare, shine, and radiance”, could indicate a break through.  

 Ordering its black feathers can so shine

*** As to seize my senses, haul*

** My eyelids up, and grant* *


* A brief respite from fear*

** Of total neutrality.**

There seems to be a positive tone or attitude of the poet that nature will provide her the inspiration and resilience to produce creative energy, by seizing her senses and forcing her eyes to observe and give hope.

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