Study Guide

Morning Song Identity

By Sylvia Plath

Identity

your bald cry
Took its place among the elements. (2-3)

This is it. The baby has arrived. And it does so with a huge, bawling cry. Nevertheless, our speaker seems pretty unwilling to recognize this baby as a human being. It's something less than that. Sure, our speaker calls the baby's cry elemental – but then again, rocks are elemental as well. It's not that big of an honor.

[…] your nakedness
shadows our safety. (5-6)

Confused? So are we. It seems like this phrase could have two meanings: either the baby's nakedness emphasizes the relative safety of the adults watching it (and thus inspires the speaker to take care of the baby), or the baby's neediness impinges upon the speaker's "safety" – i.e., her right to live her life just as she wants. Is "shadowing" a good thing or a bad thing? We're just not sure. Our hunch is that the speaker's not sure either.

We stand round blankly as walls. (6)

It's like the arrival of this new baby has reduced the speaker (and those around her) to less-than-people. Heck, they're not even wallflowers. They're just… walls. That's not exactly a desired form of being – at least, as far as our speaker is concerned.

I'm no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind's hand. (7-9)

Once again, our speaker is playing some fancy tricks with words. Is she saying that she's not the baby's mother? Or is she asserting that the baby has a place in the natural order of things? You could even call this a poetic version of "The Circle of Life." As the mother grows older, new lions come into the world. Or, um, babies.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown. (13-14)

This is the only explicit self-portrait that we get from our speaker in the entire poem, and it's not a pretty one. "Cow-heavy and floral"? We're not exactly chomping at the bit to join her. Is this description overly harsh? Or is it an honest assessment of her new place in life? Either way, it's not all that inspiring. Which is pretty much our speaker's point.

And now you try
Your handful of notes; (16-17)

This is the first time in the poem that the baby's sounds have been described as conscious linguistic productions, which is a huge shift. It suggests that our speaker might have shifted her perspective, as well – the baby's not just a creature in the world. It's a thinking being, and a creative one, at that. After all, music is a creative act. Now that's a big step up from a "bald cry."

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