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The Colossus

The Colossus


by Sylvia Plath

Stanza 5 Summary

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

Line 21

In their old anarchy to the horizon-line.

  • The poem whips out some enjambment here, completing the sentence of the previous line. 
  • So, our speaker is carrying over that image of the "fluted bones and acanthine hair" and shows these colossal fragments stretching out to the horizon. 
  • It's kind of like the movie camera just pulled out for a wide shot and now we see just how big the Colossus was. 
  • All of this really helps us feel how massively devastating the loss of the speaker's father was for her. 
  • The use of the "old anarchy" not only paints a picture of the chaotic ruin spreading around the speaker, but also gives us a sense of just how long it's been there. 
  • We're reminded that this is a pain that the speaker has been dealing with for a while.

Lines 22-23

It would take more than a lightning-stroke
To create such a ruin. 

  • Here, the speaker again helps us see the vast destruction that's spreading all around her. 
  • It wasn't just some pip-squeaky flash of lighting that did this; it was something bigger and way more powerful.
  • Could this possibly be a reference to the earthquake, which took down the original Colossus of Rhodes? Could it be a reference to nuclear weapons, which were still relatively new to the world when Plath wrote the poem?
  • Whatever it is, the speaker again gets across the idea that her father's death was accompanied by some major-league devastation.

Lines 24-25

Nights, I squat in the cornucopia
Of your left ear, out of the wind, 

  • The speaker has taken us through her day of work and now we see how she spends her nights, taking shelter from the wind in the statue's ear. 
  • The description of the ear canal as a "cornucopia" is pretty great, in our humble opinion. A cornucopia is one of those kinda curvy, cone-shaped things that you usually see spilling over with the fruits of the harvest. 
  • So, the shape of it is actually a whole lot like an ear canal. 
  • It's interesting that the speaker chooses to use this symbol of thriving life in a poem that's so focused on ruin and death. 
  • Could it be a reference to the fact that she still gains some kind of sustenance from the memory of her father?
  • Or, to go the totally opposite direction, could it represent the lack of sustenance, since the cornucopia-shaped ear canal would have to be empty for her to take shelter in it?

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