The picture above is of Sylvia Plath, along with her daughter, Frieda, and her son, Nicholas. When the picture was taken, Plath and her husband, poet Ted Hughes, had just acquired a country house. The flowers in the picture are daffodils that grew by the thousands on their newly acquired land.
To me, this is one of the saddest pictures in the world because I know quite well how the Plath story goes, as I'm sure most of you do, as well. If you don't know, suffice to say that both Plath and her son succumbed to mental illness and perished, decades apart, as suicides.
Hughes has a wonderful poem about this picture called "Daffodils." Read it by clicking the picture.
The closing image of the poem leaves no doubt that this is a poem of deep, almost unyielding, grief. Yet, if you look over the poem carefully, you'll see color, life, tactile sensations of joy and love. These are colors that contrast deeply with he poem's hard hitting theme.
If the poem had been written less inventively it might have been all about tossing flowers on a grave with wolves howling in the background. And that Gothic flair is even something Hughes excels at -- but in this case he constructs a lexicon for his grief out of the beauty of life:
Ballerinas too early for music, shiverers
In the draughty wings of the year.
On that same groundswell of memory, fluttering
They return to forget you stooping there
Behind the rainy curtains of a dark April,
Snipping their stems.
Go and do the same because, if you just use your black crayon for all your color, no-one will be excited to see what you do next.
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