Sylvia Plath wrote this villanelle in 1954 while she was a student at Smith College.  It is often included in the biographical note to her novel, The Bell Jar, since it tackles the feelings of alienation that her protagonist, Esther Greenwood, dealt with.  The biographical note in my edition tells me that Sylvia often composed villanelles while sitting in chemistry class.

This particular poem contains many germs of later Plath: religious reference brought to bear on personal life, the examination of a painful relationship, and the deft dance between the real world and the speaker's internal one.  Of course, it's this poem's extreme narcissism, i.e.

that makes it closely resemble her later poems, especially those in her most famous work, Ariel.

Full text of this poem is unavailable due to intellectual property laws.





"I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)






Miss Sylvia Plath's 1954 villanelle Mad Girl's Love Song introduces her readers to a unique protagonist who is an unconscious practitioner of solipsism, the belief that the world only exists in their mind and nobody else exists but as highly defined figments of their own imagination. The first stanza reveals this behavior with its opening lines where the narrator believes the world to be born and razed with the opening of her eyes; more to the point the world exists only when she is aware of it through sensation. The final line of this first stanza is ended with a paranoia; has the protagonist invented an imaginary friend? Is she simply dreaming up this world around her? Unaware of her own actions, the narrator continues her introspection unhindered by the consequences of her findings.

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)


In the second stanza bedazzling imagery leads the protagonist to confusion. Why is she experiencing such vivid colors and movement? How can she see the stars flying past her if she knows she has never experienced this? She is experiencing a false memory of the worst kind. She is experiencing a false memory of an event that has never occurred. Conditioned to respond, our unknowing solipsist closes her eyes to reset her world. Instantly her universe contains a gentle lover who woos her beyond her wildest expectations. This lover says everything that she wishes to hear and does everything she wishes to do. The closing line is written whimsically as if the lover is too good to be true. The false memory of the first half of the stanza is already forgotten in a shroud of self-deception or the narrator would recognize the lover as another false memory. Unlike gentler false memories which remember actual events from a collaboration of third party depictions, these false memories are completely dreamt up by the piece's protagonist.

God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you'd return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)


The piece's protagonist undergoes an awakening in the third stanza of the poem, one in which her universe crumbles. Somehow breaking down the fourth wall she has constructed for herself she learns that, in her world, good and evil are mythology that she has created for a need of feeling constrained and righteous. Good and evil, outside the reference frame of her own tumultuous mind, do not exist. God and Satan become tired metaphors as she comes to the realization that she is the creator of her world. The table that she dines at and the pillow that she cries in, the boy who first she kissed and the men who break her heart; everything has been created by herself in an elaborate web of self-deception to perhaps attain happiness while being unwise to the truth of her creations.

But now she has learned the truth.

And her world is unthreading itself at all ends.

When the foiled pair of God and Satan disappear our protagonist is left as the only moral compass; when the artificial clouds detatch from a dark canvas sky our protagonist is left as the only physical standard. A pair of crewmembers carry off the paper mache oak tree her father set a swing from when our protagonist was a child, and suddenly carefully manicured stories of the past are vanishing from her mind as the false memories of her childhood are exposing themselves for what they really are -- a fiction. Our protagonist is overwhelmed by this turn of events, so she closes her eyes...





And her world disappears...



Her love returns, but as she thought he would, as she wished he would. Our protagonist realizes she does not know her love's name because he has never told it to her. She also realizes that he has never told her his name because she never created one for him. The final line of the stanza has the intonation of a mantra. Our protagonist has, upon her enlightenment, become The Little Engine that Could. By saying "I think I made you up inside my head" so many times she has made it true, or at the least come to terms with the possibility of the statement's truth.

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)"


The final stanza appears to come after a period of contemplation on the part of our protagonist. After her awakening in the previous stanza she has thought about the implications of herself being in charge of her own world (and the obvious applicable real-life parallel of taking charge of one's own life). She has created a world which is fickle and ever-changing. She has created a love that is distant and unattainable. She is wishing now that she knew of her creation from the first so that she could have done a better job. She wishes that she could have created a world more to her needs instead of ephemeral wants.

So she closes her eyes...

And creates a new world...

Knowing, with her last thought in her current world, that if she could create a person in her last world, her future possibilities are limitless in the next...





Citation: Small type is Mad Girl's Love Song written by Sylvia Plath
Poem Length: 161 words (250 maximum)
Poem Content: 16.3% of write-up (33.3% maximum)


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