Sylvia Plaths' poem "To Eva Descending the Stair" may at first seem only a petty, pretty piece with a few good alliterations which plays upon the overused mystery of the cosmos. However, beyond the references to the moon, sun, and stars, Plath cleverly hides deep symbols of pagan religion and the feminine divine.
The title of the poem is the first and only mention of Eva, presumably the addressed "you" in the rest of the poem. Eva could easily be a variation of the Biblical Eve. Plath, herself a feminist during the early 1960's, most likely chose Eva, or Eve, to represent humanity, rather than representing it in the more common masculine form of Adam.
Assuming Eva is humankind as a whole, her descent down the spiral staircase can be interpreted as man's progression through the ages. Thus, just as history repeats itself, a person can walk down a spiral staircase in repetitive circles, his lateral position limited to the diameter of the stairway.
The spiral stair can also be considered a reference to paganism in two ways. First, because its spiral shape reminiscent of the cyclical pattern or circadian rhythm, upon which many pagan religions are based. Second, many spiral staircases are built according to principals originally discovered and explained by the Greek philosopher and physicist Archimedes, who explored mathematics and science long before Christianity emerged and silenced the voices of many brilliant scientists during the Dark and Middle Ages, and well into the Renaissance.
One of two repeated (and assumedly more important) lines in the poem is "clocks cry: stillness is a lie, my dear." Taken at it's most obvious meaning, this phrase simply reminds us that the ticking of the clock continues even in the silence and stillness of night, and we are powerless to...