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The Night Dances

Sylvia Plath

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Added by: Andrew Mayers
Harsh and dark though her poems are, they precisely and unflinchingly record those moments when no one and nothing can reach us. She is a forensic witness to the inevitability of our own demise. In ‘The Night Dances’ a mother watches her child asleep and moving around in its cot. These moments seem to be the beautiful gifts of innocence. They create in her a sense of fullness of being which, momentarily, lightens “the black amnesias of heaven.” But it is only momentarily. The contrast between the cold blankness of space and the baby’s movements (“their pink light/ Bleeding and peeling”) makes us aware of the fragility and vulnerability of such “blessings”. And that is why the ending is just right in its ambiguity. The ‘light’ of the night dances can never be destroyed and will nowhere be forgotten. But “Nowhere” can also imply that they touch and melt in the nothingness that is all there is. In other words, perhaps the blessings are nothing, that they are too insubstantial too wipe away the “black amnesias” for long.

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