poems

Topics: Sylvia Plath, Red, Color Pages: 4 (618 words) Published: February 19, 2014
Sylvia Plath's poem, "Medallion" is about a snake she finds dead, and the details of its body that she notices. Written in 1959, its form was strictly "controlled." Plath uses imagery, literary devices, and sensory details, especially colors.

First, we "see" the image of a snake, bronze, lying in the sun near a gate with a "star and moon" design.

By the gate with star and moon

Worked into the peeled orange wood

The bronze snake lay in the sun

Next, Plath uses a metaphor, comparing the snake to a shoelace. The snake is dead, but the author uses personification to describe the snake's pliable jaw and "crooked grin."

Inert as a shoelace; dead

But pliable still, his jaw

Unhinged and his grin crooked,

A metaphor is used again; it describes the snake's tongue. It is a "rose-colored arrow." Fearlessly (in death, or is the speaker comfortable with snakes?), she hangs the dead creature over her hand, noticing his "vermillion" (red or reddish-orange) eye.

Tongue a rose-colored arrow.

Over my hand I hung him.

His little vermilion eye

The poet's description of the snake's eye continues into the next stanza; it is not only red, but seemingly like fire captured in glass, which she notices as she turns him in the sunlight. At the end of the stanza, she begins a thought, recalling a moment in the past when she "split a rock."

Ignited with a glassed flame

As I turned him in the light;

When I split a rock one time

The memory of that "split rock" comes back: inside the rock were garnets that burned with the same fiery red color. The poet notes that "bust" changed the color of the snake's back to ocher which is:

...[a] color...ranging from pale yellow to an orangish or reddish yellow

"Bust" here may refer to the snake's broken back, for we find later that it was obviously killed with a brick, so that death may have changed the snake's color, especially with its placement in...
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