|The black telephone's off at the root,|
The voices just can't worm through.
Sylvia didn't do things halfway. When she loved, she loved with such ferocity that she drew blood.
Indeed, upon meeting her future husband for the first time, she bit his cheek so intensely, he wore the "swelling ring-moat of tooth marks" on his face for weeks. He would later be unfaithful to Sylvia, sparking some of her most intense work, including 'Daddy', and fathering a child with another poet, Assia Wevill.
Sylvia lost her father to diabetes when she was aged only eight. Otto Plath refused to seek medical help which may have saved his life, and his death was a considerable source of heartbreak. Sylvia became fixed with the idea of indirectly replacing her lost father figure through marriage.
From reading her diaries, you are left with the impression that Sylvia knew, or hoped, she may leave behind a legacy. Even in her most fanciful daydreams, she could not have imagined the standing her name would hold in the literary world of the future. Frustrated, heartbroken and firmly in the grips of mental illness, Sylvia Plath put her head in the oven of her rented London flat in 1963.
She left behind a husband, eventual Poet Laureate of Britain, Ted Hughes, and two young children, Freida and Nicholas.
In the following poem, Sylvia stitches the image of a man to the harsh reality of him, effortlessly sewing together the face of Otto Plath, and the face of her husband, Ted Hughes. The pace of the poem builds steadily and gradually towards the spitting of the final line, "Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through", indicating she is finally tired of trying to revive and replace the safe, male love in her life.
It should be noted for the context of the poem that Sylvia Plath's father was of German ancestry, as was her rival for Ted Hughes' affection, Assia Wevill.
You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.
Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time-
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one grey toe
Big as a Frisco seal
And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend
Says there are a dozen or two.
So I could never tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I could never talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.
It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich.
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you,
And the language obscene
An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.
The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.
I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat moustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You -
Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.
You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the man who
Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.
But they pulled me out the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look
And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.
If I've killed one man, I've killed two -
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.
There's a stake in your black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.