Saturday, September 4, 2010

Snakecharmer by Sylvia Path

As the gods began one world, and man another,
So the snakccharmer begins a snaky sphere
With moon-eye, mouth-pipe. He pipes. Pipes green. Pipes water.
Pipes water green until green waters waver
With reedy lengths and necks and undulatings.
And as his notes twine green, the green river
Shapes its images around his songs.
He pipes a place to stand on, but no rocks,
No floor: a wave of flickering-grass tongues

Supports his foot. He pipes a world of snakes,
Of sways and coilings, from the snake-rooted bottom
Of his mind. And now nothing but snakes

Is visible. The snake-scales have become
Leaf, become eyelid; snake-bodies, bough, breast
Of tree and human. And he within this snakedom

Rules the writhings which make manifest
His snakehood and his might with pliant tunes
From his thin pipe. Out of this green nest

As out of Eden's navel twist the lines
Of snaky generations: let there be snakes!
And snakes there were, are, will be-till yawns

Consume this piper and he tires of music
And pipes the world back to the simple fabric
Of snake-warp, snake-weft. Pipes the cloth of snakes

To a melting of green water, tiII no snake
Shows its head, and those green waters back to
Water, to green, to nothing like a snake.
Puts up his pipe, and lids his moony eye.

Creation is a theme dealt with in all religious philosophies. The creator of all things is called God and man, the peak of creation, is also a creator in a limited sense. He thinks, acts and produces art, literature, technology, architecture and so on. The artist was considered and is considered even now as the prime creator among men. The poet creates too and in the poem ‘Snakecharmer’, Sylvia Plath does just that and more. She creates the character of the snake charmer depicting him as a creator, the creator of the world of snakes. The snake charmer could also denote Satan and he creates the world of evil. This meaning can be give with reference to the story of Adam and Eve.

She begins the poem by saying that just as gods and men begin worlds, meaning create, so does the snake charmer begin ‘a snaky sphere’, here ‘sphere’ standing for the ‘world’ of snakes. The instruments he uses are the ‘mouth-pie’ through which he blows hypnotic music and his ‘moon eye’. The tune issuing forth out of the mouth pipe can be compared to the words of Jehovah, as quoted in the Book of Genesis of the Bible, who created through His words and His first words were “let there be light”. ‘Moon eye’ could denote dreamy or hypnotic eye that can hypnotise the snakes or the ability of Satan/Evil to hynotise people into doing evil.

Plath then uses the image of water to speak about the world of snakes as water stands for life and creation. The charmer ‘pipes water green’ until the water flickers and like reeds, the snakes move. His notes make the ‘green river’ of snakes ‘twine’ or coil ‘around his songs’. The words ‘twine’ ‘around his songs’ seem to suggest that the snake charmer knows the world of snakes and controls their movements from the ‘snake-rooted bottom of his mind’. Green water could also be the symbol of greed, lust and jealousy, the vices that cause man to be evil.

The snake is compared to a tree and a human. The snake scales are compared to leaves and eyelids, and snake bodies compared to boughs and the breast of man. Again the control of the snake charmer over the snakes is stressed by saying that he ‘rules’ over his ‘snakedom’. The snake ‘writhings’ seem to take their essence from ‘his snakehood’ and ‘his might’. Satan is mighty in the world of Evil.

Just as man began his history from the Garden of Eden, so too has the snaky generation evolved from Eden’s navel. The allusion is to the serpent in the Garden of Eden mentioned in the Book of Genesis. Just as God made all things with the words “Let there be …”, so has the snake charmer uttered the words ‘let there be snakes’ and there were, are and will be snakes.

When the charmer tires of playing the pipe, he pipes the snake world back to the green water. For some time he creates and commands totally a tantalizing world of snakes and like God capable of destroying what he has made, he un-creates the world of snakes.

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