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A Short Analysis of Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Moon and the Yew Tree’

Written in October 1961 as she was beginning to find her own distinctive poetic voice, ‘The Moon and the Yew Tree’ is one of the most widely discussed and analysed of Sylvia Plath’s poems. This is perhaps inevitable, in a poem which is so loaded with symbols; our instinct as readers, and as literary critics, is to decode the symbol or discover what the poem really ‘means’. You can read ‘The Moon and the Yew Tree’ here before proceeding to our analysis below.

Sylvia Plath wrote ‘The Moon and the Yew Tree’ in 1961 while she was suffering from writer’s block. Plath’s husband, the poet Ted Hughes, suggested that she write a poem about the view outside their bedroom window. Hughes later recalled that, from the window of their house in Devon, they could see a yew tree in the churchyard to the west of their house. Read the rest of this entry


A Short Analysis of Sylvia Plath’s ‘Elm’

Like many of her poems, including her mature poems from her late period, ‘Elm’ is an obscure Sylvia Plath poem which resists straightforward analysis. Plath’s complex and ambiguous use of symbolism renders ‘Elm’, if not impenetrable, then at the very least, challenging. You can read ‘Elm’ here before proceeding to our analysis of the poem below.

The elm tree is a tree associated with rebirth. Unlike the yew tree – which, in Plath’s ‘The Moon and the Yew Tree’, is associated with masculinity, Christianity, and death – the elm tree offers hope of revival and resurrection. Like another Sylvia Plath poem which has attracted a good deal of analysis and commentary, ‘Lady Lazarus’, ‘Elm’ is about rebirth, but with the knowledge that in order to be reborn there must first be death. Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of Ted Hughes’s ‘Snowdrop’

‘Snowdrop’ is a short poem by Ted Hughes (1930-98), perhaps the greatest nature poet writing in English during the entire twentieth century. Only Edward Thomas can match Hughes for the attention to detail and the powerful yet unsentimental treatment of the natural world (and notably, Hughes called Thomas ‘the father of us all’). You can read ‘Snowdrop’ here before proceeding to our brief analysis of the poem below.

A fine winter poem, this. ‘Snowdrop’ was published in Ted Hughes’s second collection of poems, Lupercal, in 1960. In just eight lines of couplets – which don’t rhyme in the traditional sense, but instead utilise pararhyme and consonance (tight/heart, brass/darkness, minds/ends, month/metal), a favourite device of Hughes’s – the poet sets the winter scene. Read the rest of this entry