by Sylvia Plath
From the beginning of the poem, where we find out that the mirror is "unmisted" and "swallows" everything, to the end of the poem, where a girl is drowning and a fish is rising, this poem revolves around water. Here, water is both a reflecting surface and an actual lake. So, water, in this poem, is both clear and mysterious.
- Line 2: While this line doesn't explicitly address water, it uses the word "swallow" as a metaphor for reflecting. The word makes us think of water, which can itself swallow things, taking them beneath its surface.
- Line 3: Again, a water-related term is used as a metaphor. "Unmisted" stands in here for "unchanged."
- Lines 10-11: Here we find out that the mirror is a lake. It's a cool image, shifting from the silver of a mirror to the silver of clear water. Then we hear that a woman is searching the reaches of the water for what she really is; if you've ever spent some time peering into water, you'll know that it can be mesmerizing like this. The mythical Greek figure Narcissus even died looking into his reflection in a pond.
- Line 14: The tears are another form of water, and the woman is physically interacting with the water of the lake by stirring it up with her hands. She's taking her frustration out on the water.
- Lines 17-18: This drowning and rising up is, yet again, a metaphor. With the young girl drowning, and the old woman rising, it seems most likely that the water is a metaphor for time, or aging. Also note that because the old woman rises up "like" a terrible fish, this part of the line is a simile.