by Sylvia Plath
Lady Lazarus Death Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it— (1-3)
The poem begins and we're immediately talking about death. ("It"=death.) But death is introduced with a pronoun—"it"—so first-time readers of the poem may be a little unclear about what's going on, which makes the big reveal all the more horrifying.
And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.
This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade. (19-24)
In these stanzas, the speaker compares herself to a cat, which, as the old timey saying goes, has nine lives (or, in Lady L's perverse version, nine deaths). Right now she's up to number three. Hold on readers, we know now (if we didn't already) that this poem is going to be dark.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.
The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut
As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls. (35-42)
Of Lady L's near-death experiences, only one was a suicide attempt. In it, the speaker tried to shut out the world—and a mysterious "they" eventually saved her. Though we can't help but wonder: how much did she or didn't she want to be saved?