Sylvia Plath's poem, "Morning Song," portrays a mother talking to her newborn child. The words and images the mother focuses on reveal her ambivalent feelings in her new role as a mother: She feels that the baby is an intimate part of her, but she also senses that the baby is a stranger in her life. In the first line, "Love set you going like a fat gold watch," the mother compares her baby's conception to the setting of a watch.
This comparison reveals that the mother thinks her baby is a part of her life to be cherished as people cherish old watches passed down from generation to generation. Because the mother claims that "love" caused the baby's life to begin, we can assume that the mother is remembering her love for the baby's father, although he does not play a further role in the poem. The mother's claim that "love" set the baby going also indicates that she feels the natural closeness a new mother would feel for her baby.
In the second stanza the mother compares the baby metaphorically to a "new statue." But that new statue is not found in an intimate place like the home; it is located in a "drafty museum." By comparing her newborn to a new statue in a drafty museum, the mother opens up a great distance between herself and her child.
While the "fat gold watch" indicates that she cherishes her newborn, the "new statue" comparison reveals that the mother also feels somewhat distant from her baby. Because museums are places where foreign objects are displayed, her choosing to place the new statue/baby in a museum further hints that her baby is also foreign to her.
That the baby is foreign and strange to the mother is especially evident in stanza three: "I'm no more your mother / Than the cloud that distils a mirror to reflect its own slow / Effacement at the wind's hand." Although she has given birth to the baby like a cloud produces rain which in turn becomes a lake that will reflect the cloud, she cannot take credit for the baby's existence.
She feels that like the wind that blows away the cloud, a power beyond herself drives her the same way that it drives the cloud, the wind, and the mirror lake. The baby may resemble the mother, but its individuality ultimately drives it from the mother just as the wind drives the cloud beyond the lake. In contrast to the "statue" and the "cloud" references is the intimacy revealed in stanzas four and five:
All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.
One cry and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat's . . .
Obviously, the baby is sleeping in the mother's room, and the mother sleeps very little; how else could she report to us how the baby sounds "all night"? The mother hears the little breathing sounds as the infant sleeps under baby blankets decorated with pink roses. As the mother listens, the silence surrounding the baby noises becomes loud like a far off ocean, but as soon as the baby cries, the mother rushes to her infant immediately.
This act reveals the closeness the mother experiences for her child. However, distance enters almost immediately as the mother refers to the baby's mouth by comparing it to a cat, a well-known symbol of independence.
In the final stanza the mother notices that morning is arriving: "The window square / Whitens and swallows its dull stars." And baby demands attention again. The "clear vowels" that "rise like balloons" are the "Morning Song." Again by comparing the baby's morning cry to balloons, the mother reveals her ambivalence: the baby's cry is an assertion of an independent spirit yet that cry is also a demand made on the mother.
The image of a "handful of notes" is caught by the mother's ears, but the rising balloons will soon ascend out of her reach--these two final images reveal the ambivalence that the mother has been struggling with in the poem: the baby is close to her yet distant from her, and she cannot explain the reasons; she can only explore them.