The poem ‘Morning Song’ opens with the speaker ‘I’ who addresses a new born baby using ‘you’. Love was the origin of the baby whose presence is compared to a ticking ‘fat gold watch’. As the child was born, the midwife slapped the footsoles of the baby and it began to scream. Soon the family watched the baby in its bed, forming a circle around the baby. The baby seemed to the speaker as something similar to viewing a statue in an art museum.
At home, the speaker stays awake most of the night, listening to the baby breathing. Once the baby starts to cry, the speaker who we now know is the baby’s mother, judging from the fact that she’s wearing a Victorian nightgown, rushed out to take care of it. She watches as the morning starts to colour the window panes, and then marvels at how the baby has begun to cry – a form of “singing” that the speaker likens to “vowels” flying up like “balloons.”
Plath’s simple, direct language creates an absolutely clear image in her readers’ minds. One of the most common uses of is the incorporation of figurative language in this poem synaesthesia, or mixed-up sense impressions which might convey just how confused the speaker is about her feeling towards the baby. Synaesthesia is the description that appeals more than one sense. Plath presents readers with a sharp image of a baby coming into consciousness through touch-or, to be specific, through a slap. As the baby feels, the speaker hears: she uses synaesthesia to describe the baby’s “bald cry.” She applies metaphors very effectively. Describing shadows and drafts in the “museum” of the hospital allows Plath to play with a metaphorical sense of touch as she describes the baby’s arrival. The speaker isn’t actually feeling a cool shadow fall on her skin. She just imagines the baby as that shadow.
The “flickering” of the baby’s breath creates a delicate image-one that, like a moth’s wings, is barely noticeable, even in the silence of the night. The baby’s breath sounds like a “far sea”. The sea is a classic metaphor for the regular rise and fall of rhythmic breath. The sound rising like balloons appeals to our sense of sight. We hear sounds visualizing the image of the balloons. Once again, Plath uses synaesthesia to develop strong sensory images. Plath develops metaphors to compare both the speaker and the baby to anything, but an infant and its mother. This fascinating strategy allows the speaker to establish a different sort of relationship with her newborn infant. The watch or statute creates an unreal relationship with the baby. But this relationship changes, however, as the poem works towards its end, as the speaker is working through her emotions about the baby.
At the opening the baby is compared to ‘a fat gold watch’. The baby’s cry is described as being part of the elements, which helps to create an image of the baby as a sort of force of nature. It is not a typical description of a newborn. The metaphor of ‘New statue’ establishes the identity of the infant. The descriptions drafty museum, nakedness, blank walls creates a dispassionate picture. The metaphor of cloud constructs a negative image. The speaker is not the baby’s mother in the same way that a cloud is not the baby’s mother. But it could also mean that the speaker is the baby’s mother just as much as the cloud is. Either way, though, there’s a troubled relationship between mother and baby-it’s certainly not the declaration of possession that we expect to hear from a new mom. The detachment when the speaker describes herself as a cow (“cow-heavy”), which suggests that her relationship to the baby is an animal one: she’s only there to support its physical needs (provide the baby with milk). An interesting change occurs for the first time in line 15. The poet uses a simile comparing the baby’s mouth with that of a cat. Its mouth is clean as a cat’s. Words, such as “like” or “as”, introduce a simile. The baby is just like a cat-which means that, for the first time in the poem, she’s recognizing the baby as a baby.
That’s a step closer to recognizing the child’s relationship to her. Finally, she uses an image that’s definitely human. Plath describes the baby’s sounds as “vowels,” which means that the speaker recognizes them as parts of speech.
Plath is experimenting with poetry as a confession – an incredibly intimate, soul-revealing, emotion-baring sort of confession. After all, she’s telling her child that, well, she doesn’t necessarily feel all those warm fuzzy feelings that mothers are “supposed to have. It might just be that trying to superimpose a fixed poetic meter on top of words that are supposed to come from the heart would dilute some of the poem’s immediacy. As it is, we feel like she’s shedding all sorts of conventions in order to express what she really feels and things like meter and rhyme happen to be among those conventions.
The poem is divided into six three-line stanzas, but the stanzas don’t have any rhyme scheme or distinct metrical pattern. It is written in free verse since there’s no metrical pattern here. Even the line breaks seem to follow regular patterns of speech more than the correspond to a master plan. Perhaps that’s a way for Plath to assert how utterly new and strange this “song” is and we’re betting that, in fact, the lack of form might be a way to indicate that new experiences like birth and motherhood require new forms.
Some of the sentences are very short in “Morning Song”. They force us to pause-often in the middle of a line. Reading the poem aloud will immediately make these pauses come to light. They help to build the sense that the speaker’s worldview right now is chaotic, suddenly shifting, and generally emotionally charged. Even though there’s no overt rhyme scheme in this poem, Plath plays with assonance (the repetition of a vowel sound) in several stanzas of this poem: The following instance, shows the way that short a’s (in bold) and long a’s (in italics) repeat in the stanza:
Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue. In a drafty museum, your nakedness Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.
We can also notice the way that “new,” “stat-ue,” and “mu-seum” all repeat “ew” or how the diphthongs (a fancy term for smashing two vowel sounds together) in “our” and “your” are each repeated twice in the stanza.
Such dense overlapping of vowel sounds tends to perform the echoing effect that the speaker says “our voices” have created. It’s almost as if the poem itself enacts its subject matter-which makes the intense personal message of the poem even more realistic. It’s not an emotional appeal to a new baby that’s cleverly wrapped in elaborate rhyme schemes or iambic pentameter. Plath’s assonance is much more subtle than that, creating interwoven vowel patterns which seem as natural as our normal speaking voice.
Thus, this short poem is worth reading because it uses language in new and intriguing ways. Plath’s use of metaphor and simile is vivid and original, and she manipulates images evocatively throughout her work. This is a visual poetry of a high order. Plath also impresses us with her carefully judged ability to combine colloquial and figurative language giving her poem a raw energy and power that are exhilarating.