[Skip Navigation]

Plagiarist Poetry Sites: Plagiarist.com | Poetry X | Poetry Discussion Forums | Open Poetry Project | Joycean.org
Enter our Poetry Contest
Win Cash and Publication!

Visitors' Comments about:

Nick And The Candlestick

Sylvia Plath

Add a new comment.

Miner as baby
Added by: Ben
This could be intepreted as plath describing her pregnancy. Her cold icy womb is killing her child. The cave of calcium are her hips.
Work through the poem with this in mind, it makes a lot more sense.
nick and the candlestick
Added by: paul
It is about pregnancy (like her poek watermelon, where she sees herself as a bloated, gory vessel for life that is parasitic to her), and about depression (like much of her work, explicitly or implicitly), and a kind of allegorical fugue playing between references to a cave and her womb, adding religious references. As in Watermelon, she is horrified and depressed by the thing growing in her but hopes that in sucking life from her it is born without her failings.

"I am a miner, the light burns blue". Here is struck the initial chord of menace, invoking the guttering candle of a miner as a pocket of poisoned, lifeless air is encountered. The miner is about to suffocated in the dark of mother earth, the womb and tomb of all beings who spring from the dust of the ground and return to it.

"waxy stalactites drip and thicken, tears the earthen womb exudes from its dead boredom". Here begins a thread of double meaning between the candle and the cave. The waxy stalactites are dripping wax from the warning candle worn by the miner, and also the stalactites of the cave. Soon, the cave is seen to be a symbol of her womb, and the stalactites are thus her ribs and other bones. Like stalactites, bones form slowly, precipitating minerals from their watery matrix into stones, in the dark. By invoking the "earthen womb", Plath explicitly now invokes the comparison of a dark suffocating cave to a womb. Later in the poem, she incants "let the mercuric atoms that cripple drip into the terrible well" - again referring to the slow distillation and precipitation of substances from the surrounding matrix into the growing stalactites/fetal body within. The cave/womb is stifled in "dead boredom". Plath feels consumed and choked and drained by her own baby, which has distorted and taken over her body, and sucks nutrients from it like a cancer. She feels like light and life are being taken from her as the parasite grows, and that she is drowning in the dark in a slow uncaring horror that swallows time itself and is "bored", the feeling one might get of a cave, old beyond counting, which has marked unaffected the passing of eons of human cares with no more interest than the maddening drip, drip, drip as its stalactites grow over geologic time.

"black bat airs wrap me, raggy shawls, cold homicides, they weld to me like plums". Like a lost miner breathing his last in a pocket of cave gas, Plath feels the depression of her circumstance gather on her like a cold terror, the parasite killing her, sucking the breath out of her.

"old cave of calcium, icicles, old echoer, even the newts are white" - here, she calls her own skeleton the old cave of calcium, and tells of her emptiness (old echoer) and how long it seems she has been without life. Here, in the dark of her soul, it has been dark so long that what little life has managed to squeak by has morphed hideously into albino form, like cave fish who have no need of color.

"those holy Joes, and the fish, the fish, Christ! they are panes of ice, a vice of knives, a piranha religion drinking its first communion from my live toes" - here is the first invocation of religion, which culminates in the closing lines ("you are the baby in the barn"), wherein her baby is born of fallen, hopeless matter but yet represents the hope of tomorrow, like Jesus (the original baby in the barn). Fish are in many religions symbols of resurrection, fertility (they breed fast and are historically the poor mans food, reliable even when the land fails in drought) and have special significance in Christianity, as in the Ichthys symbol people sport on their bumpers. Here, they are set against her, sucking her blood and life from her, as her fetus - the symbol of fertility and resurrection - feeds on her for its life.

"the candle gulps and recovers its small altitude. O love, how did you get here? O embryo, remembering even in sleep your crossed position. The blood blooms clean in you Ruhy, they pain you wake to is not yours." In a moment of hope, represented by the momentary yellowing of the flame from its anemic blue, Plath addresses the parasitic fetus as "love", meaning both a personal endearment and a reference to Love itself. How did you come to such an empty place, you who are incipient life and hope? She explicitly refers to her embryo, and its fetal (crossed) position. Plath feels in this moment that her own emptiness and worthlessness are not her baby's, that the placental barrier keeps out that which is a desecration, and distills into the baby only that which it needs, leaving the bad blood behind and coming through to the baby in pure form - the blood blooms clean in you Ruby refers to the heartbeat of the child, the clean blood blooming in its body. Note the masteful alliteration, in which "blood blooms" almost sounds like a heartbeat.

The next lines about roses and soft rugs refers to her uterus, red and velvety, similar in theme to Watermelon.

"Let the stars plummet to their dark address, let the mercuric atoms that cripple drip into the terrible well" - maybe a reference to Thalidomide, which used to cause birth defects. At any rate, the terrible well is again her uterus, and the nutrients (and maybe poisons) passing to the baby "drip" into it, echoing the stalactite references earlier.

"you are the one solid the spaces lean on, envious. You are the baby in the barn". Plath feels personally useless, a host for the baby sucking its life from her. She is a framework of spaces, a hole (the cave/womb) the baby leans on and fills. She is envious of the growing life, as she is in turn diminished (she feels). The baby is the hope, the growing life, the envy and nutrient base of all around it. The baby is Plath's chance at future life, as all children are the immortality of their aging parents, the deliverer of the future, and so little messiahs, the "baby in the barn".

Added by: Jen
This is a very loving, totally maternal poem addressed, as titled, to the author's baby son. In it she interrupts her own journey of introspection and self-absorbtion-the "miner" traveling down her old, familiar interiors-by the sight of her son, sleeping as in the womb, "embryo"-like, and he pulls her back out of herself; she is awed by his strength, by the solidity of him, by his realness and calmness. She almost can't believe she produced him from herself("how did you get here?"), but the tone is warm and it's obvious she is glad he did appear. The baby embodies life and hope. He is no parasite, but an autonomous being, and that's what it's all about for her, infant though he is. It's about maternal love, even in a "cold" intellectual mother.
ted leaves
Added by: Linnea
this poem is actually about the life sylvia plath was now experiencing (with her two young children) now that hughes has left. notice the end of this poem;

"You are the one
Solid the spaces lean on, envious.
You are the baby in the barn"

this is obviously a reference to a christ-child. this fits with what we know of sylvia's feelings about baby nicholas -- she favoured him, while ted favoured frieda.
Added by: liz
really really wrong.
Up until she wites "the candle / gulps and recovers its small altitude", SYlvia is not pregnant, but WANTS to be!
WAxy stalactites, black bat airs.. shes referring to her womb! unused, empty, almost old. And the calcium bit.. remember a kettle after its no been used? calcium in the bottom. shes calling her womb old, she feels useless, and she wnats her baby. and the womb has its dead boredom because theres no child in it.

» Add a new comment.

« Return to the poem page.