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The Colossus

The Colossus


by Sylvia Plath

Stanza 2 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 6-7

Perhaps you consider yourself an oracle,
Mouthpiece of the dead, or of some god or other.

  • With these lines, the speaker seems to be mocking the fallen statue. 
  • She was just talking about all the crude noises coming from its mouth, right? But now she accuses it of having delusions of grandeur, saying that it thinks it speaks for the "dead" or a "god." 
  • Notice that the speaker drops another classical reference here with the word "oracle," which is most likely an allusion to the Oracle of Delphi, a major center of prophecy in the ancient world.
  • Many pilgrims used to travel to Delphi to ask questions of the priestesses there, who answered with prophecies from Apollo. 
  • So, the speaker is basically saying that the statue thinks it's just as cool and important as this ancient oracle, but really it's got nothing to say.
  • Nothing but base, animal noises are coming out of its mouth. 
  • Quick note on rhyme: so far, there isn't any. This poem seems to be pretty conversational, not particularly structured in any way. For more on this choice, check out "Form and Meter."

Lines 8-10

Thirty years now I have labored
To dredge the silt from your throat.
I am none the wiser. 

  • The speaker continues to diss on the statue's speaking abilities here by describing its throat as being full of "silt." Silt is a finely-ground type of soil, somewhere between sand and clay.
  • So, if the statue's throat is full of this stuff, it's probably not able to say much at all. No wonder the speaker is "none the wiser."
  • Not only can this Colossus only make animal sounds, its throat it totally clogged. Some oracle it is, huh?
  • We also notice that the speaker is again depicting herself in a caretaker role. She may be mocking the fallen statue, but she's "labored" for "thirty years" to try and clear out its silty throat. 
  • It seems like, even though she resents it, she must care for it deeply in some way. 
  • Here again, at the end of the second stanza, we're left wondering what the speaker's relationship with the statue represents. 
  • This stanza ultimately seems to tell us that it is something she once expected to get wisdom from, but now just can't—no matter how hard she tries.

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