Study Guide

Big Poppy Stanza 7

By Ted Hughes

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Stanza 7

Lines 16-17

Soon she'll throw off her skirts
Withering into vestal afterlife,

  • And now we're back to talking about the flower's short life span, this time in terms of clothing, which is right in line with the personification of the flower as a woman.
  • To "throw of her skirts," then, would be for her petals to fall off.
  • As we know, when petals fall off of a flower, the petals themselves wither away, and sometimes the whole plant does too – think of any common annual, like daisies or geraniums. Once they're done flowering, pretty much the whole show is over.
  • Now, we know that this isn't entirely true for the poppy – after all, there's been all this talk of opium, the seed pod, etc. The exit here is going to be a little more dramatic.
  • Thus, the flower has an "afterlife" – something, we think, is going to happen here that's not just the plant itself falling to the ground to be replanted next year.
  • Oh, and for vocab: vestal refers to the mythological virginal priestesses of Vesta, who were important in Roman religion. The word then has come to mean chaste, or pure.

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