One of the few essays to have survived since my days in A Level English Literature. I hope to find/do some more of these soon because it’s easy to forget how enjoyable they are when you’re used to writing them in a stressful environment.
Both Morning Song and Timer are confessional poems. One is addressed to a new born baby and the other to a recently deceased parent; showing that the speakers were not expecting a response from them and could speak freely and in a confessional way, without romanticising the themes of motherhood and death.
A reference to the noun ‘gold’ is made in both the poems, which has connotations of preciousness. In Morning Song it is used metaphorically in the phrase ‘a fat gold watch’ which implies that the mother is excited for the arrival of her baby, as the ‘watch’ is symbolic of time and waiting. In Timer, ‘gold’ is used to reference his mother’s wedding ring in the line ‘gold survives the fire that’s hot enough.’ The verb ‘survives’ personifies the object, creating a sense of strength that could be symbolic of their mother/son relationship or even the strength of his parents’ marriage.
Both poems reference the idea of nudity and baldness, which strips down the mother/child relationship to its most basic form. For example, in Timer Harrison mentions an ‘envelope of course official buff’ which is a colloquial way of referring to governmental documents concerning his mother’s death, but it could be ambiguous and refer to nudity as ‘buff’ is a colloquialism for that also. This could show that their relationship has been laid bare once again and has returned back to its original state, like it was when the speaker was first born as death is considered the ultimate leveller. In Morning Song, Plath uses synaesthesia with the phrase ‘bald cry’ which could be a way of saying that the cry is something new, something raw and naked like the baby itself. It could also reference their relationship and how it is so far blank and bare, something to be established and filled in.
Maternal imagery is created in the two pieces with reference to clothing and feminine features. In Timer the speaker creates maternal imagery by listing his mother’s clothing, ‘a cardy, apron, pants, bra, dress-’. The noun ‘cardy’ is a colloquialism, and is a feminine word choice which suggests that the speaker may have acquired that word through listening to his mother speak. This creates a comforting image of familiarity, whereas Plath uses the same technique for a different effect. The term ‘Victorian nightgown’ creates the image of a woman cloaked head to toe. It is a nonsexual image and is used to represent change (rather than familiarity) as she adapts to motherhood.
The idea of distance and disconnection is present in both poems. In Timer, the number ‘6-8-8-3-1’ is used to reference his dead mother, making it seem as though that in death she has been stripped of her identity and that his connection with her is lost. It is the opposite in Morning Song as the speaker is yet to establish a connection with her child. The line ‘I’m no more your mother than the cloud that distils a mirror’. The nouns ‘cloud’ and ‘wind’ (featured in the next stanza) create a semantic field of weather. The weather Plath chooses to focus on has negative connotation and is perhaps used to reflect her initial attitude towards her child.
In terms of graphology, Morning Song is structured in such a way that makes the lines look like the in-out breathing pattern of a baby. This could have been done to show the mother’s attention to her child, which links to the idea presented in stanza four with the line ‘a far sea moves in my ear’. This metaphor is used to symbolise the rhythmic breathing, and indicates a new interest in the baby on the mother’s part. In Timer the structure changes on the third stanza and becomes more disjointed and broken up, which could have been done to reflect the speaker’s emotions concerning his mother’s death. The single line ‘it’s on my warm palm now, your burnished ring!’ could have been placed on its own to symbolise that (like the line itself) the speaker now stands alone. The adjective ‘warm’ is used to contrast the idea of death as it shows that the speaker is very much alive. The exclamative creates the impression of excitement as the speaker realises that a piece of his mother has survived, and he is dependent on it as he is perhaps not ready to stand completely alone.
Both Morning Song and Timer present parental love but from different perspectives. Morning Song shows a mother welcoming her child into the world and establishing a connection whereas Timer shows a son wishing his mother goodbye and losing the connection. Despite this contrast, we see similar representations of motherhood, preciousness and adjusting to new situations throughout the two pieces.