mouth-ash

English translation: biblical reference

21:40 Apr 16, 2005
English to English translations [PRO]
Linguistics / Poetry
English term or phrase: mouth-ash
Grey birds obsess my heart,
**Mouth-ash**, ash of eye.
They settle. On the high
Precipice
That emptied one man into space
The ovens glowed like heavens, incandescent

These lines are from Plath's "Mary's Song" which I am not translating but commenting in my final dissertation. I was wondering if a native speaker may infer more from this "mouth-ash" than a non-native one, because actually I can not understand what she means...
sabina moscatelli
Italy
Local time: 16:29
English translation:biblical reference
Explanation:
He feeds on ashes; a deluded mind has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, "Is there not a lie in my right hand?" {Isaiah 44:20 RSV}

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Note added at 3 hrs 37 mins (2005-04-17 01:17:17 GMT)
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or perhaps a reference to Emma Lazarus\' poem \"Admetus\":

The jealous gods would bind his mouth from speech,
And smite his vigorous frame with impotence;
And ruin with bitter ashes, worms, and dust,
The beauty of his crowned, exalted head.

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Note added at 3 hrs 38 mins (2005-04-17 01:19:02 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

The idea being, be careful what you want, you might get it, and once obtained, its bright savor might turn to bitter ashes in your mouth.
Selected response from:

Refugio
Local time: 07:29
Grading comment
Thanks a lot. I don't know if Plath really meant to quote Isaiah, but I find this is an original hint. Thanks to Elisabeth and all the others for confirming that "mouth-ash" is not a common English term.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



Summary of answers provided
4 +5symbolism of World War II ash, fire, grayness
Elizabeth Lyons
4biblical reference
Refugio


Discussion entries: 1





  

Answers


9 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +5
bad taste in the mouth (paraphrase) but also the color and texture
symbolism of World War II ash, fire, grayness


Explanation:
Literally, the ash in the mouth of the people, the fires burning throughout the war zones, the depressed nature of the experience, and a lot more symbolism you can get for yourself. <http://www.dreamwater.org/redego/wtc.html>

The color and texture of ash, probably similar to that felt by the people in lower Manhattan on 9/11. Rich symbolism along with all of Plath's work. The dark mind, the gray flavor of life, of everything, etc. An obscure reference as well to the holocaust and the gas chambers, of course.

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Note added at 11 mins (2005-04-16 21:52:05 GMT)
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Mouth-ash is a stream of consciousness, Plath-ism, not a common English term, imo.

Elizabeth Lyons
United States
Local time: 07:29
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 12

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  John Bowden: You can say e.g. "the food turned to ashes in her mouth", i.e. grief/sadness prevents her from being able to enjoy anything
11 mins
  -> Thanks John.

agree  Will Matter
20 mins
  -> Thanks WillM.

agree  Can Altinbay
1 hr
  -> Thanks, Can:)

agree  Ali Beikian
3 hrs
  -> Thanks, Ali:)

agree  Abu Amaal (X): Not very obscure a reference, it goes through the whole poem - cracks in its fat ... the tallow heretics ... the ovens glowed ... this holocaust I walk in ... the world will kill and eat. But simultaneously centered on Easter and the crucifixion.
5 hrs
  -> Thanks Abu, what a graphic writer she was :)
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

3 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
biblical reference


Explanation:
He feeds on ashes; a deluded mind has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, "Is there not a lie in my right hand?" {Isaiah 44:20 RSV}

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 3 hrs 37 mins (2005-04-17 01:17:17 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

or perhaps a reference to Emma Lazarus\' poem \"Admetus\":

The jealous gods would bind his mouth from speech,
And smite his vigorous frame with impotence;
And ruin with bitter ashes, worms, and dust,
The beauty of his crowned, exalted head.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 3 hrs 38 mins (2005-04-17 01:19:02 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

The idea being, be careful what you want, you might get it, and once obtained, its bright savor might turn to bitter ashes in your mouth.

Refugio
Local time: 07:29
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 35
Grading comment
Thanks a lot. I don't know if Plath really meant to quote Isaiah, but I find this is an original hint. Thanks to Elisabeth and all the others for confirming that "mouth-ash" is not a common English term.
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)



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