Mon 23 June 2008, The Independent

Van Dyck, Sir Anthony: Venetia Stanley, Lady Digby, on her Death-bed (1633)

By Tom Lubbock
This is how Sylvia Plath put it, hard and clear, in her last poem, "Edge": "The woman is perfected./ Her dead/ Body wears the smile of accomplishment,/ The illusion of a Greek necessity/ Flows in the scrolls of her toga,/ Her bare/ Feet seem to be saying:/ We have come so far, it is over.." Dead indeed. The bare feet suggest the slab, which makes "toga" only a fine word for a morgue shroud. And knowing what we do, about what the poet herself was about to do, we can't help reading these lines as an imaginary, anticipatory self-portrait, post mortem. The cause of death and of "the smile of accomplishment" is suicide.
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It was published by The Independent, which adheres to the PCC Code

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