Plath’s “Yadwigha, on a Red Couch, Among Lilies” is an incredibly vivid poem that uses visual imagery to describe the scene of Henri Rousseau’s “The Dream.” The painting itself is bizarre, with the main focus being a nude woman, dubbed Yadwigha by Plath, lying on a red couch in a jungle, and Plath seems to recognize and appreciate this oddity for what it is.She refutes the complaints of critics who say that a red couch has no right to be amidst this jungle scenery and justifies its presence as beautiful when contrasting with the delicate elegance of nature.
Sylvia Plath wrote many poems based on modernist and surrealist paintings in her short career as a writer.
Some of these she wrote to describe the visual beauty of the painting in words, while others were almost entirely unrelated to the paintings they were supposed to be based on.
The snake charmer is found standing under branches of the same kind of tree in both paintings, later described by Plath as “heart-shaped” and “like catalpa leaves” (“Yadighwa, on a Red Couch, Among Lilies,” 6).
Amazingly, these jungle environments were created “from visits to the zoo and botanical gardens, from postcards, books, and from Rousseau's vivid imagination,” as the artist never left France.
In these cases, she uses both the titles of the paintings and the titles’ connotations in order to express her own internal desires.
Regardless of the way in which she uses these works of art in her poetry, it is clear that she gains inspiration from them.She mentions how the contrast of the red “against fifty variants of green” (19) draws attention to the couch and Yadwigha lying upon it, making her seem even more stunning simply because she poses on something unexpected.In the second stanza, Plath addresses the complaints of critics that Yadwigha must choose between the natural green of the jungle and “the fashionable monde of the red couch” (10).Plath's “The Disquieting Muses” seems to be another example of her inspiration through an idea gleaned from the title of a work of art, rather than something created from the actual content found within the painting.The painting seemed to mean little to Plath, who simply considered the title the perfect way to describe her mother's wishes for her.In this description, the muses are no longer vengeful ghosts that follow and torment the young Plath, but are instead mere statues, incapable of movement or emotion.She continues, saying “their shadows long in the setting sun / That never brightens or goes down” (52-53).(Tate Gallery) Sylvia Plath's poem, “Snakecharmer” bears little resemblance to Henri Rousseau's painting of the same title; instead, it is as if she wrote the poem not about the painting, but about the idea of a snake charmer.For one thing, Plath describes a male snake charmer, while the one that appears in Rousseau's masterpieces is female.Both sets of muses are certainly disquieting, but de Chirico's are more physically disturbing, while Plath's seem to be purposefully trying to make her feel inadequate and insecure in herself.Her inability to dance with the other children of her age or properly play the piano always disappointed these muses, even though her mother seemed to always love her.