The Ghost's Leavetaking

Enter the chilly no-man's land of about
Five o'clock in the morning, the no-color void
Where the waking head rubbishes out the draggled lot
Of sulfurous dreamscapes and obscure lunar conundrums
Which seemed, when dreamed, to mean so profoundly much,

Gets ready to face the ready-made creation
Of chairs and bureaus and sleep-twisted sheets.
This is the kingdom of the fading apparition,
The oracular ghost who dwindles on pin-legs
To a knot of laundry, with a classic bunch of sheets

Upraised, as a hand, emblematic of farewell.
At this joint between two worlds and two entirely
Incompatible modes of time, the raw material
Of our meat-and-potato thoughts assumes the nimbus
Of ambrosial revelation. And so departs.

Chair and bureau are the hieroglyphs
Of some godly utterance wakened heads ignore:
So these posed sheets, before they thin to nothing,
Speak in sign language of a lost otherworld,
A world we lose by merely waking up.

Trailing its telltale tatters only at the outermost
Fringe of mundane vision, this ghost goes
Hand aloft, goodbye, goodbye, not down
Into the rocky gizzard of the earth,
But toward a region where our thick atmosphere

Diminishes, and God knows what is there.
A point of exclamation marks that sky
In ringing orange like a stellar carrot.
Its round period, displaced and green,
Suspends beside it the first point, the starting

Point of Eden, next the new moon's curve.
Go, ghost of our mother and father, ghost of us,
And ghost of our dreams' children, in those sheets
Which signify our origin and end,
To the cloud-cuckoo land of color wheels

And pristine alphabets and cows that moo
And moo as they jump over moons as new
As that crisp cusp toward which you voyage now.
Hail and farewell. Hello, goodbye. O keeper
Of the profane grail, the dreaming skull.

by Sylvia Plath

Comments (9)

Amazing
My name is lit
Ted Hughes, whom I was lucky to count as a friend, is always superbly at one with the animal world. An analogy with humans is suggested but not stated as the poet is simply not interested in “the effects that power can have on a human being”(Shereef) . Hughes observes brilliant – and as always in his animal poems, refrains from passing judgement. The hawk views the high trees, the air and the sun as existing entirely for its own convenience, which I guess parallels how many of us view nature. The bird sees itself as perfection, the highest achievement of creation, and the last line, ‘I am going to keep it like this, ’ shows the genius of the poet in making explicit an attitude that is only implied
The hawk is used as a simple analogy to humans in power. In response to Desiree Iten, I don't think Hughes is comparing the Hawk to humans overtaken by 'sophistry' and 'manners' as you say. The Hawk itself is powerful and in command of the earth below him: 'The convenience of the high trees! ' He is overjoyed by his power, and asserts his power by saying things such as: 'My manners are tearing off heads - The allotment of death.' The hawk is conceited, 'Now I hold Creation in my foot, ' and certain of himself, 'my eyes closed.' The hawk is at the top of the hierarchical chain that defines nature and how it runs, and seems unmoved by the fact that he does not need to defend his place on this chain: 'No arguments assert my right: The sun is behind me.' Furthermore, this word sun gives an image of light and righteousness shining upon the hawk, creating a shadow of justice covering all creatures below it. It may also relate back to the idea of nature and how it's rules and laws, no matter how ridiculous they may be, still support his position. Desiree Iten, Hughes is not criticizing humans in general, which you seem to think he insists on doing. He is simply criticing the effects power can have on a living being, and demonstrating how it can change one's perspective on life, causing him to become almost dellusional because of this.
i think it's about challenging our perspective. people think they are the most superior beings on this planet, that the world was created by God for us, that we are the ones in charge here and look down on all the rest, but the hawk looks down on us here. the wolrd is his for the picking. we pride ourselves on our 'sophistry' and 'manners' but the hawk just tears off heads - the seat of our intellect. we build airplanes and fly with the 'sun...behind' us in war and we think we're so smart, but actually all we're doing is trying to mimic the hawk, and we just end up using this technology to destroy ourselves anyway. we humans keep glorifying progress progress progress. the hawk has not 'permitted any change' to happen to his world or himself, and look where he is: still waaaaay above us. so what's the big deal with progress then anyway? i think this poem is about getting people to stop and consider, 'what makes you think you're the one running the show? '
See More