By Sylvia Plath
Eye, the cauldron of morning.
"Ariel" is a poem written by the American poet Sylvia Plath in October, 1962; shortly before she committed suicide. Despite its ambiguity, at the most literal level “Ariel” depicts a woman riding her horse in the countryside, at the very break of dawn. It details the ecstasy and personal transformation that occurs through the experience.
Stasis in darkness.
Then the substanceless blue
Pour of tor and distances.
The ‘stasis’ (a state of stillness or inactivity) at the beginning of the poem contrasts with the building of momentum which characterises the remainder of the poem.
In the very next line there is absolute speed. When riding something at high-speed, vision tends to blur; so instead of seeing sky and hills, she sees blobs and impressions of such things. A ‘tor’ is a hill. ‘Pour’ suggests the blurred effect of speed, as if it is the landscape that is ‘pouring’ around her; moving alongside her.
The use of “pour” and “tor”, as well as the use of the ss sound throughout makes this whole stanza fit together in a peculiar way, a metaphor for the snatches of scenery Plath sees when riding Ariel.
How one we grow,
Pivot of heels and knees!—The furrow
Splits and passes, sister to
The brown arc
Of the neck I cannot catch,
‘God’s lioness’ is a reference to the name of the horse, Ariel, which in Hebrew means ‘lion’. Plath says ‘How one we grow’, implying that she and the horse blend together, and that together they assume ‘lion-like’ characteristics of authority, strength and courage. “The brown arc/ Of the neck I cannot catch,” - conjures a concise word-picture of a horse’s neck arched and leaning forward, out of reach of Plath’s hands. ‘I cannot catch’ implies yearning and straining, as if the poet is longing to be a fast and free as Ariel. Note that the ‘furrow’, that is the ploughed up land, is ‘sister’ to the ‘brown arc’. The scenery and the horse become blended together.