The Edge: The Chilling Last Poem Written By Sylvia Plath Before Taking Her Own Life

Plath and her son Nicholas
Plath and her son Nicholas

Did she consider taking the children with her?

Edge

By: Sylvia Plath in 1963

The woman is perfected.

Her dead



Body wears the smile of accomplishment,

The illusion of a Greek necessity.



Flows in the scrolls of her toga,

Her bare



Feet seem to be saying:

We have come so far, it is over.



Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,

One at each little



Pitcher of milk, now empty.

She has folded



Them back into her body as petals

Of a rose close when the garden



Stiffens and odors bleed

From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower.



The moon has nothing to be sad about,

Staring from her hood of bone.



She is used to this sort of thing.

Her blacks crackle and drag.


Sylvia Plath, “Edge” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1960, 1965, 1971, 1981 by the Estate of Sylvia Plath. Editorial matter copyright © 1981 by Ted Hughes. Used by permission of Harper Collins Publishers.

Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes as newlyweds
Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes as newlyweds

Biography:

The collected work of poet Sylvia Plath is directly intertwined into her biography. Plath was born in Massachusetts in 1932 and educated at Smith College, Plath suffered from depression after her loving father Otto died from diabetes complications in 1940. Despite this depression and two attempts of taking her own life, she realized moderate literary success with her poetry and her autobiographical novel "The Bell Jar". In 1956 she met and married and moved to London with her English husband; poet Ted Hughes. The two had two children together, Nicholas and Frieda. In 1962, Hughes left her and the children for his mistress. During the long cold winter, depression set in once again and Plath took her own life by placing her head in a gas oven February 11, 1963. Weeks before her death, she composed her most chilling and successful work later collected and published as "The Collected Poems" for which she later won the Pulitzer Prize. The Edge was completed days before she completed the act.

Plath with Nicholas and Freida
Plath with Nicholas and Freida

Analysis

Plath's poetry was considered to the first and best examples of "confrontational" and "confessional" poetry of her era. Such poetry takes real life events for the poem's metaphor. Poets often used this tool to "confront" real and imagined characters.

Plath's most famous poem, "Daddy" is a confrontational poem that directly "confronts" Plath's anger, sadness, and love for her father as he died as a result from taking proper care of his treatable medical condition. When you apply Plath's confrontational style to the Edge, it suggests that the poetess had considered taking the lives of her children along with her own. The ending of the poem refers to the children being "folded" back into the flower as "petals" and says "we have come so far, it is over." With these lines, Plath alludes to the idea that life is a journey and death is the reward at the end of the journey, not just for herself; but for her children as well.

No one will ever know what Plath's true intentions were, but at the time of her death, she took considerable care to prevent her children being exposed to the fumes by stuffing towels below the doors and leaving milk at her children's bedsides. Despite her tragic death, Plath left behind a legacy of love for her children in her poetry.

More by this Author


Comments 72 comments

TheManWithNoPants profile image

TheManWithNoPants 5 years ago from Tucson, Az.

Wow. You're going places on the Hub Pages girl. People say my "Dirty Rottom Bastard" is powerful. It's purely amateur. This is the mark. Gimme More!

jim


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

I am so sorry Jim.. spoonerism..


TheManWithNoPants profile image

TheManWithNoPants 5 years ago from Tucson, Az.

Tammy,

(pssst..) it's Jim (whispering) That can get you in trouble in certain situations kid! (laughing)

No, I wasn't plugging my poem. That poem is just a declaation of independence. It's okay for folks not into great poetry, but to a real poet, I'm sure it's junk. It would take to long for you to find anyway. It takes ME a awhile. Just keep on writing. I love it.

Mark .. I mean Jim!


TheManWithNoPants profile image

TheManWithNoPants 5 years ago from Tucson, Az.

(cyber high five!)

j.


tammyswallow 5 years ago

I appreciate that. I am humbled!


newday98033 5 years ago

If I don't write a better poem before killing myself I'll be terribly embarrassed.


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Newday, I am glad you stopped by. I hope your message isn't a cry for help.. lol.. I am glad you are here. I'd be even happier if you stayed around.


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Jim/ Mark/ Late for Supper/ Man With No Clothes/ Awesome Hubber,

You think I would learn.. :).I read it and I am very impressed. It is very, very good.. no junk. I have tried for the last 15 years to be a "real poet" with much rejection and criticism. What is worse is that the more literature education you get, the more you learn that so many others have done it better and all the "rules" really crush a person's creativity. To me, the raw.. honest.. true sepage of a person's soul is what is art to me. And you my friend are a master and never let anyone else tell you differently!


TheManWithNoPants profile image

TheManWithNoPants 5 years ago from Tucson, Az.

(smiling big) I'm just sitting here working on two blogs and heard the click. I just met you and already feel like you're part of a small circle of hubbers who are real honest to goodness friends. You've got a super attitude and are genuinly sincere.

You ARE a good poet. I will honestly never be. First, I've got a problem with rules. Always have. Second, I could never fit into their little club. Third, I'm too independent and self absorbed. I write what I write for me. It's my theropy and replaces beating up A-holes in the parking lots of a bars. (laughing) I am selfish I think. Honestly, every song I ever wrote was just giving my pain to everyone else, and doing some nice guitar work to slide it in under the door. You write to up lift and move others. It's very UNselfish. If you can make me cry, or make me laugh, or make me angry, you are a great poet. Screw the rules. (skuse me) I'm kinda thinking about this, because I've been reading some great stuff by you and other poets. It seems like the other poets roast them over these rules while their own personal poetry sucks. Some of these people are really sensitive and it really crushes them. I'd just tell em that geeks suck and move on, but not everybodie's a jerk like me. I just know your poems are good. Maybe it's time to change the stupid rules!

Anyway, you didn't ask for all that. I'm just saying, "thanks for being cool my friend."

jim


newday98033 5 years ago

Hey Tammy, no not a cry for help. I'm not a Plath fan, admittedly. My opinion is the form of a poem should have something to do with content, rythym, rhyme or in some way express the wavelength it is simulating. Plath may have been a sad girl with dour opinions, but then the best poetry would be a trim riffle, not this dark obligato.


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Well Newday, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. I followed her for many a thesis. Perhaps because she is a female, oppressed, and the whole bag of rocks, women like me can relate to her work. WARNING... I am going to be doing more hubs on her. I do hope you will follow them cause I would love the opportunity to change your mind about her work. So what poets do you like if I may ask. Thank you for your honesty. I love a great debate!


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks Jim.. I have met some fabulous people like you here. There are a few of you that feel like kindred spirits. I guess it is good that we enjoy eachothers company and do this for the right reasons.. cause it sure isn't the few cents per day.. lol..

I have been going through your blogs.. wow! If we were all such outstanding American's this country would turn around. I will e you about your fabulous web site and add it to facebook. I have many, many likeminded friends who are ready for a revolution. More to follow my friend!


TheManWithNoPants profile image

TheManWithNoPants 5 years ago from Tucson, Az.

Right on my sister! Yeah, it's time to rock the American boat. I appreciat all the help I can get and wanna thank you for doing the face book deal. Hey is New day one of them there good poets? Content, rhythm, rhyme? First, don't you need to be able to spell rhythm before you get it? I dunno. Hell, I'm just the piano player in a whore house. Anyway, it's all about following the rules, not spelling. Sorry Newmen. I mean newday. I dig that honesty thing too bro, only I dig manners more. Course that's just me.

It's supposed to get down to 28 degrees tonight and that's almost unheard of down here. Well, I'll say good night Tammy. And hey! Good night too you Newday, you crazy guy you! (snickering) :()

jim


newday98033 5 years ago

Hi Tammy,

My faves are Emily Dickenson (no one is really close) and John Donne. I love Joni Mitchell's work, though it isn't poetry, strictly. But combining music and words in that creative a fashion is incredible.

Faulkner and Twain's prose is so commanding and gorgeous they teach much about language in any form, my opinion. The Bridge of San Luis Rey, The Great Gatsby, War and Peace, The Idiot (Dostoyevsky) are prose poems in form instruction.

Who else do you like?


newday98033 5 years ago

Hey Jim. You're sandbagging. The best poets (and writers in general) were, and are, selfish bastards.


TheManWithNoPants profile image

TheManWithNoPants 5 years ago from Tucson, Az.

(laughing) You're cool man. You know how to take a joke. Rare these days. :)

If what you mentioned is true, I should be in good shape bro!

jim


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Newday,

I do agree with you on Donne. That is some of the most beautiful, complex poetry ever.. Both he and Dickenson wrote poems full of heavy hidden sexual messages. Very interesting.. Thanks for reading.


newday98033 5 years ago

Tammy, I wonder if anyone’s writing could not be interpreted that way, depending on the viewer.

Regardless, the D’s created interesting poems that it seems no one has written before, demonstrating a unique vision of this place.

Like a Beatles song, good writing stays fresh over many visits.


gail641 profile image

gail641 5 years ago from Mason City

The poem is wonderful. It's sad that she committed suicide. Sylvia Plath was so beautiful! She sure looked beautiful in the pictues. Her children were beautiful, too.


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi gail.. I am glad you liked it. She was beautiful, and troubled. You can google photos of her children. Her daughter Frieda is still living. Plath's son Nicholas committed suicide a few years ago. The fascination for me is finding out if writing drives a person crazy or if crazy people are driven to write. I appreciate your kind comment.


ExoticHippieQueen 5 years ago

Hey Tammy! I've always been meaning to read some of Sylvia Plath's works and to learn about her life and death. This gave me a little look into her world. I am intrigued by this poem and where her mind was at that time. Thank you for this interesting exploration into her life and times..............


gail641 profile image

gail641 5 years ago from Mason City

I wouldn't think she'd want to leave her children behind. She was beautiful, as well as her children.


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks Exotic Hippie Queen and Gail,

Her work is even better than her biography. Her poem Lady Lazarus is excellent and it is "timeless" in that it keeps representing today's woman. I hope you will read more of her work.


Jean Bakula profile image

Jean Bakula 4 years ago from New Jersey

The poem was very interesting, I never read the Bell Jar, but it's on my always growing list of books to read! I like Ella Wheeler Wilcox, and my favorite poem is from Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken. I don't understand why many people interpret it as that he's sad and missed out on life. I always thought he credited the person he was with "taking the road less travelled by." I suppose it's all in the way the reader sees it! Nice to meet you!


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thank you Jean.. What is even better than the Bell Jar are her journals. I hope you will check her out. I appreciate the nice comment.


Jean Bakula profile image

Jean Bakula 4 years ago from New Jersey

Hi Tammy,

I will look into the journals. I've been interested in Plath for some time now, but it's been in the back of my mind. Thanks for jogging my memory!


Pearldiver profile image

Pearldiver 4 years ago from Tomorrow - In Words & NZ Time.

Thanks for sharing this - I am in the middle of writing about suicide and depression like this, so I appreciate the depth of her words and pain. Always an interesting mix when captured in a positive, poetic emotional expression.

Take care.. believe.


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Pearldiver,

She is an amazing poet. Good luck with your new article. Thank you for reading!


Lilleyth profile image

Lilleyth 4 years ago from Mid-Atlantic

Interesting. I've never explored Plath's body of work, perhaps I'll put that on my bucket list. I'm a Dorothy Parker fan myself.


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

She is prolific and a wonderful writer. Thanks for sharing that!


AliceFSpencer profile image

AliceFSpencer 4 years ago from Texas

This was a very good read, I enjoyed learning about her and her wonderful work .. voted up


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks for your visit and your comment AliceFSpencer. I appreciate that.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

I have always loved her work--what a wonderful writer--thank you for this piece on her and on her work


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks for your wonderful comment Audrey. She is one of my favorites too!


lifesparadox profile image

lifesparadox 4 years ago from USA

Awesome hub on Sylvia Plath, I love her! I haven't read all of her work but I do intend to. Edge I have never read, it is very chilling once knowing her story. Thank you, great job! :)


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks so much lifesparadox. She is my favorite poem. I think her very best is Lady Lazarus. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon

Tammy, I've always found Plath interesting. have you read "Sylvia Plath: the Collected Poems"? It may be the one you mentioned in the article, but I'm not sure. it's such a generic title. It was edited by her husband Ted Hughes and it lists every poem she wrote between 1956 and 1963, with the exact dates? The Edge was completed 6 days before her death.


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks PDXKaraokeGuy. I did most of my literature papers on Plath. I have read the collected poems, The Bell Jar, the Journals, and the chilling Birthday Letters. I wish we could all read the poems that Plath wrote without Hughes approval. It is rumored that he removed all poems that she wrote about him and his affairs. Good stuff!


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

Her husband went on to high poetic honors didn't he? So tragic with Plath's suicide- makes one wonder what heights she could have attained. Going to share your fine article on her Tammy.


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 4 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

It has been many years since I've read Sylvia Plath's enigmatic work. The Bell Jar and collected poems as well as the Journals were and are timeless; speaking to an affliction less understood during her time. Her work was deep then and much revered as time passed. I have often referred to The Bell Jar when describing various stages of melancholy to others - during discussions and about personal bouts of depression. Death at her own hand was and is a tragedy; it is a shame that she could not be helped. UP Awesome Useful Interesting and Beautiful due to the subject matter and way in which you shared your understanding of it. Thank you.


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

He did! Ted Hughes was named the poet Laureat for Britain until his death. This whole story is a tragedy. Nicholas Plath recently committed suicide. There seems to be a link in literature between insanity and genius. Thank you so much for reading and sharing!


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Tammy....this is chilling and awesome. A favorite book of mine is "The Bell Jar." Sylvia surely was a dark and troubled woman, yet an enormously gifted and talented writer/Poet.

Strange and mind-boggling comes to mind when I read about Sylvia and her life......also, quite tragic.

This is excellent, Tammy. UP+++


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks for sharing your appreciation for Sylvia Plath Luckycats. She was ahead of her time and a feminist in her own way. Her work and her life circumstances are something modern women of today can still relate to. It would have been interesting to see where her work would have gone if she lived. Thanks for visiting!


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

The Bell Jar is a great read and gives us a glimpse into Sylvia's troubled mind. She is such a striking poety. I am glad you enjoyed it. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

Thank you again for this! I love her work!


ignugent17 profile image

ignugent17 4 years ago

Interesting and sad .


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks ignugent17!


lifesparadox profile image

lifesparadox 4 years ago from USA

I love Sylvia Plath. Great write and well done. Most have either forgotten about her or have never read her work. The key in this case of course is..once you have read some of her work, you need to find out as much as you can about her. This helps understand her a little. Sylvia was a very sick woman and it ran in her family. Back in the 40's and 50's they didn't know how to begin to help people with such mental difficulties. Sad that she was forced by her own unknown demons to take her life. She was gifted and I can relate slightly I believe with the way she thinks. Most of us have been down these dark roads but Sylvia had no help finding that little ray of light at the end of the tunnel.


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks so much for reading and sharing this lifesparadox. She certainly had her demons and they were fed by a very cruel and unfaithful husband. She really puts a face on women's issues in the 50's and 60's. She had no help and was so far from home. Makes you wonder about the unspoken stories of women of her time. Great thoughts lifesparadox!


Lord De Cross profile image

Lord De Cross 4 years ago

Chilling story! Sometimes mind gets over our bodies and we just go with the flow. The piece of poetry certainly has touched our inner feelings. Still stunned by her last minute decision! Thanks! I missed this one !


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

Tammy, I love this! You do Sylvia Plath's legacy well.She touched me so much with her life and poetry. I'm going to link your hub to mine on Plath's life that I meshed with her Tomato Soup Cake recipe. She was a fascinating and talented poet who suffered greatly. Enjoyed this hub immensely. Many votes!


nmdonders profile image

nmdonders 4 years ago

I admit that I have never even heard of her before but it was tragic to read this nonetheless. This was interesting and I'm intrigued to look up more of her poetry now. Thanks for sharing.


cclitgirl profile image

cclitgirl 4 years ago from Western NC

Whoa. Seriously powerful. I'm awed by the poetry and the eerie foreshadowing. Thank you for sharing this, Tammy. It's beautiful, well-written and I love all the extras you put into this hub. *Fabulous* Tweeted/shared.


sen.sush23 profile image

sen.sush23 4 years ago from Kolkata, India

Tammy, Plath is one of the poet's who intrigue me. She seems very real and transparent. Fragile, delicate and sensitive- it may be difficult to identify with all her moods, but it is also difficult to remain unscathed by the strong emotions. I had not read this poem earlier- and it is beautiful, to say the least. Death is so strong that even her 'pitcher of milk' metaphorically assuming this to mean love for her children has dried up. But in reality, that was not so- and she took care to preserve them from her depression and death. Tweeted/Shared.


Levertis Steele profile image

Levertis Steele 4 years ago from Southern Clime

I have crossed Sylvia Plath, maybe one poem, but I did not know as much about her. Death stole her father; and to add insult to injury, a mistress stole her man; the events stole her happiness; and depression clouded her mind. The feelings of severe depression is never completely understood unless it's experienced. Sometimes the victim is stumped. It is like a "bull in a China shop." I am a survivor.

I think her love for her children changed her mind about taking them with her. People have different beliefs about death. Some think it to be a lonely cold place while others think it to be a peaceful sleep free of memory. Some people who commit suicide may be trying to find that peace. This is not to support suicide, but an attempt to look at it from a point of view unlike the typical. Enough!

I am emotionally speechless at this point because I suffered many years from my father's accidental death, and I lost my first husband to another woman. The lady, the poetess, had so much to offer. This single poem is unforgettable.

As I read "Edge," I was reminded of a line of James Weldon Johnson's poem, "Go Down, Death": "He [Death] looked to me like a welcome friend." Yes, I am choking with emotions, and all I can feel is I wish I could have helped her.


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

I am glad you found it Lord! Thanks for commenting. :)


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks Victoria Lynn! I didn't realize Sylvia had a tomato cake recipe. I will link yours too. Thanks for visiting!


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks nmdonders. I hope you do. Both Plath and her husband Hughes are two of the best modern poets.


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks so much for reading and commenting CClitgirl. Plath is one of my favorite all time writers. I studied her in depth in literature courses and I was hooked. I appreciate you visiting and sharing!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

Hey, Tammy, thanks for adding my Tomato Soup Cake hub. I've added yours to mine, too. I love Sylvia Plath's work!


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

This is such a sad and painful poem sen. It is rare for a poet to infuse so much of themselves into their work to this degree. I think in a lot of ways her death was her effort to protect her children from her mental illness. This is one of those things that stays with you. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.


Gypsy48 profile image

Gypsy48 4 years ago

Excellent hub Tammy. I am a big fan of Sylvia's work. "Sylvia" the movie was made in 2003. Gywneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig starred in it. I liked it though it didn't fare well at the box office. Voted up and awesome:)


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment Levertis. There is so much debate in the literature world over whether or not Sylvia is an icon to the feminist movement or if she hurt it. I personally feel she is an icon for women's issues. She could have done so much more with her life and lived to see the Pulitzer prize she won, her children growing up. (Her son Nicholas just recently committed suicide). But overall she represents the raw and honest pain that women experience at the hands of men and the struggles that single mothers face. While these things are painful, they are so very real. This poem was written in the 1960s and yet it still speaks to us today, as do many of her other poems. In "Lady Lazarus", she is in the same state of mind but overcomes the thoughts of suicide. I am glad her work has stirred you. :)


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Awesome Victoria Lynn. I love her work too. Thanks for sharing!


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Gypsy. I actually liked that movie too. Paltrow did a surprisingly excellent job. I would bet there are so few people who actually follow poetry now a days that the audience base for the movie is just to small. Thanks so much!


LauraD093 profile image

LauraD093 3 years ago from Pittsburgh PA

tammyswallow-better late then never, I just came across this wonderful hub. I have loved and written about Plath myself throughout the years. This interpretation of "Edge" I believe is right on the money. Although I believe it was a thought unlike her suicide that fortunately did not become a reality. The actions she took to safeguard her children prior to ending her life speak more of a Mother's love then a need to take her children with her into the unknowable shadows of death.


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 3 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks so much for reading and commenting LauraD093. I wish we would have been able to read poetry by her as a wise old woman. :)


moonlake profile image

moonlake 3 years ago from America

Very interesting hub on a very sad woman. Thank goodness she didn't take her children with her. What a great life she could have had but at least her poetry will live on. Voted up.


adjoycepoet profile image

adjoycepoet 3 years ago from New Jersey

It's chilling to know that this was Plath's last poem. I agree with your conclusion that she did not want her children to be harmed. Some have even said that Plath was hoping that someone would discover her before she died. Very interesting hub, thanks.


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 3 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks for reading adjoycepoet. It is a pleasure to meet you here. I think you are right. With previous attempts of suicide, Plath always left notes and clues so she would be found. It saddens me that people live with so much pain and this is the only escape for them. Thanks for reading!


ExoticHippieQueen 3 years ago

I've always felt some degree of morbid interest in Sylvia Plath but have read little of her work. Thank you for sharing this deeply disturbing look into her mind, as well as your background on the poem and her life.


old albion profile image

old albion 23 months ago from Lancashire. England.

Hi Tammy. This is such a sad story which I remember. An unhappy life an unhappy marriage. Well put together with nice photography. Well done.

Graham.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working