Night Dances by Sylvia Plath | Summary and Analysis

Night Dances by Sylvia Plath | Summary and Analysis

Night Dances by Sylvia Plath

Night Dances is a poem that describes the experiences of a mother to the new born babies. The emphasis in the poem is on the priority and innocence of new born babies. In this poem, she has pointed featurelessness of a baby losing into empty space. The mother in the Night Dances feels existential insecurity when she confronts the gestures of a baby. The baby in her complete furity wants to establish relationship with the world.

Summary of Night Dances

Sylvia Plath has beautifully described almost all the gestures and pranks of the Newly born babies in the very first stanza, she refers to automatic smiles of a baby : The smiles lose their significance because they remain unresponsive. This is clear from the first three stanzas of the poem.

“The Night Dances

A smile fell in the grass.


And how will your night dances

Lose themselves. In mathematics?

Such pure leaps and spirals –

Surely they travel.”

The smiles of a baby fall in the grass uselessly. It is frustrated and it is not returnable. The jumps and spirals Travel the whole world, which means that Babies are the part and parcel of the world. The gestures of young babies are quite meaningful. They are omnipresent.

In the next two stanzas, the poet says that the smiles spire and jumps of a baby in the lap of his mother will not be wasted but they shall travel through the world but they are not transient. They are permanent. The mother is obliged to the baby for many gifts.

“The world forever, I shall not entirely

Sit emptied of beauties, the gift.

Of your small breath, the drenched grass

Smell of your sleeps, lilies, lilies.”

The mother thinks that everything is fresh about the new born baby. Their flares are not related to anybody or to anything. In the state of infancy the baby has no layers of ego. Just as calla has no layer of petal in its flower. And it looks as decorated as the tiger which its spatt.

“Their flesh bears no relation.

Cold folds of ego, the calla,

And the tiger, embellishing itself

Spots, and a spread of hot petals.”

The images used are all that speak of purity of the baby. The world in which the baby comes have a big space just as shining comets pass through a vast sky similarly the new baby shine in the world.

“The comets

Have such a space to cross,

Such coldness, forgetfulness.

So your gestures flake off-

Warm and human, then their pink light.

Bleeding and peeling.”

The new baby is opting colour and a source of great joy to the mother. The baby passes through the black oblivion of heaven.

The poet is giving his own philosophical realization through airy images such as baby’s smile drew drenched grass, lilies, the comets, the lamps, the planets. These images all emphasize the purity and the innocence of a baby. While the mother feels quite helpless and lonely but the child’s presence is quite warm. The child enters in the void of nowhere :

“Through the black amnesias of heaven.

Why am I given

These lamps, these planets

 Falling like blessings, like flakes

Six-sided, white

On my eyes, my lips, my hair

Touching and melting.


Analysis of Night Dances by Sylvia Plath

This poem was written in November, 1962. By then Sylvia Plath, the wife of Ted Hughes, a strong English poet had given birth to three children. The first a child girl was born in 1960. The second child was a miscarriage. The third child was son born on January 17, 1961. His name was Nicolas Farar Hughes. For two years Sylvia had enjoyed the company offer for the innocent child. Only experience of her deep joy in the company of two babies have been transcribed into the poem ‘Night Dances‘.

The speaker of the poem is woman who is very delighted to play with her new born baby. She observes all the gesture of the infant child. She is delighted to see its smiles, spirals, jumps and other mathematical figures that it makes in the lap of its mother all the pranks of child give pleasure to the mother.

All the gestures that the child makes are quite temporary but purity of the innocence are the product of divine purity. In this respect Sylvia Plath is quite comparable to Wordsworth who observes in his famous ‘Ode on Intimation of Immortality.’

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