Full Fathom Five

October 18, 2010

So, I totally did not understand this poem until I googled the title.  It turns out the phrase comes from the song that Ariel sings in The Tempest:

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Ding-dong.
Hark! now I hear them — Ding-dong, bell

and ‘fathom five’ means thirty feet under water.

Am I the only one who didn’t know this?

Anyway, this is a fascinating poem.  I love how Plath uses the choppy form to reflect the decaying state of ‘Father’ and what he does to those who see and know him (emotionally and physically).  Specifically, my favorite line is “To make away with the ground-” (31).  I think the half-meaning reveals more of the narrators desire even than the purpose of the old man.

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