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Black Rook In Rainy Weather

Sylvia Plath

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Added by: David Shackelford
The poem is about the process of finding inspiration, and the poet's interaction with the world. It asks questions. When will something exciting happen that I can write about? When will a stone holler and wave its hands at me? When will the mailbox sprout white wings and terrorize me with its beauty? The distance between one inspired moment and another can be long, but the wait is worth it. The poem is about how the poetic vision can transform an object and how the occurances of that glorious vision are rare but powerful. Want more to say? Count the syllables in each line and see if there is a pattern in the stanzas. Type it out in prose format and see if it strikes you differently that way.
Look at the bigger picture here...
Added by: Lenny
This is an excellent poem which discusses the virtues of human existence and the struggle that each of us has human beings much face up to in our everyday lives. It gives inspiration to the desperate, hope to the depressed and strength to the weak and hard-hearted. Anyone in need of a good 'pick-me-up' will greatly benefit FROM this, one of Plath's more spiritual and deep poems in which she is not afraid to open herself up to her elated reader. I strongly believe that Plath was capable of so much more integrity and grace and is so worth opening our eyes to and listening to, than is seen in poems such as 'Daddy' and 'Lady Lazarus', in which she simply rampages on and on about senseless emotions she is experiencing. Yes, indeed, 'Black Rook in Rainy Weather' is a truly uplifting poem which we all could benefit FROM if we could only allow our hearts to lead us and our minds to guide us.
rhyme scheme
Added by: dylan
A professor I had once cited this poem and its abcde abcde ... rhyme scheme as refutation of a colleague's glibly proferred opinion that "anyone can rhyme."
a pick me up?
Added by: lener
Here's what I think - FROM a paper I wrote on the poem:

In “Black Rook in Rainy Weather,” Sylvia Plath describes a conflicted psychic and spiritual state in which the speaker (a person who seems closely identified with the poet herself) longs for divine ORDER and inspiration, in an attempt to escape FROM the “total neutrality” (line 32) and meaningless disorder she sees in the world. .... The speaker, at once superior and vulnerable, struggles to find and to create meaning in a universe she once believed governed by a higher power, represented in the symbol of the rook, who she believes has betrayed her.

The language of the speaker is throughout quite sophisticated, formal, and learned, producing a sense of distance, or an attempt at distance, between herself and the state of spiritual emptiness she finds herself in. The use of phrases such as “the desultory weather” (line 8), “obtuse objects” (line 18), and “skeptical,/ Yet politic” (lines 24-25) convey a sense of a speaker who is, intellectually speaking, quite competent, well able to express herself. In context, however, these phrases characterize the “dull, ruinous landscape” (line 24) the poet finds herself in; this fluency is thereby rendered a rather empty gift in light of the absence of purpose the speaker sees in the universe. Her fundamental problem then becomes that of finding a source of meaning and justification, and dealing with her conviction that the withdrawal of a divine meaning-giving force FROM her perceived world-order is a sort of betrayal or cheat.


Words like “accident” (line 5), “portent” (line 10), and “luck” (line 31) add a DISTINCT dimension of superstition to the Judeo-Christian religious language. The speaker, when she now turns to the idea of divine inspiration, does not consider it in its pure sense, but mixes it with superstition. The boundary between the two is blurred, reinforcing the uncertainty she feels as to the reality of such things (described as “those spasmodic/ Tricks of radiance…” (lines 37-38)) in the face of purposeless dullness and emptiness surrounding her as “the desultory weather” (line 8).

The contradictory impulses found in the language of the poem- towards religious hope, superstition, and towards a certainty of a meaningless, purposeless universe- help form an image of a fragmented world in which the speaker is compelled to construct meaning. She must “Patch together a content/ Of sorts…” (lines 35-36) in ORDER to avoid the threat of “total neutrality” (line 32). The consciousness of the speaker-of a deceptive world in which the seeming promise of externally imposed meaning and order, and the gift of illuminating inspiration is withdrawn, is illustrated through the particularities of the language used and the superficial ORDER imposed on those words. The situation and activity of the speaker in piecing together meaning, analogous to the process of writing (an activity intimately connected with the idea of inspiration, of muse) can be seen as reflecting the struggle of the poet in justifying her work. This situation, however, in which one must construct meaning, is by no means particular to poets or to the process of artistic creation, but confronts us in a broader sense in the loss of religious faith, of externally imposed meaning.


I thought it was pretty depressing.
Added by: vikki
The comparison between this poem and Ted Hughes poem 'Hawk Roosting' is uncanny. She is looking up at the bird in the tree whereas he is the bird that sits in the tree. There seems to be a dialogue between the poems. They were married and so perhaps she envied the fact that he could gain inspiration for his poems where she had to try finding it.

The fact that he's in the tree represents confidence and contentment whereas she's on the ground lookin up would suggest that she thinks little of herself-this could be seen as liable because it was a well known fact that Sylvia was a manic depressive.
possible error
Added by: Erin
In another version of this poem that I read (in a book of poetry) line 15 reads "leap incandescent" instead of "lean incandescent." The effect is very different with the use of the word "lean" (I like "leap" much better), so whoever maintains this site might want to look into that. (I don't know, maybe I saw an incorrect version in that book). Also, I would like to say that I agree with Lenny, in that I find this poem to be hopeful and uplifting. It speaks of the possibility for miracles in any situation, even one that seems completely dreary and bleak. This is one of my personal favorites.
no error
Added by: fiona
I looked in several poetry books and they seem to agree that the correct line is "lean incandescent." I also believe the poem is full of hope. It is beautiful.
Added by: fiona
I guess I wrote too quickly... the first three books I looked in had "lean incandescent" but the next three said "leap incandescent." What's right???
Added by: jessica
i actually heard a tape of Sylvia Plath reading her poems, and in the tape she says "leap" not "lean." hope that helps!
Added by: Chad
A rook, for anyone who does not know is basically a crow. 'One Crow sorrow, two crows joy' . Rainy weather. the author is desperately looking for something to live for. Living in a life that is tiresome, dull. Death comes to us all in the end, perhaps it is the only one thing we can look forward to, besides the few moments in life that are truly happy. Then again I wrote an essay on this poem to this effect and recieved a poor mark. My prof thought like you people.

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