Sunday, April 5, 2009

Today's Featured Poet: Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) was born in Maine (Penobscot Bay), attended Vassar College and lived in Greenwich Village. She wrote plays, she wrote poetry...if she wrote novels, she would've had the exact life for which I was striving. Her poetry tended to follow traditional English forms, particularly the lyric and the sonnet. Her subject matters were varied from rebellion against convention to beauty and romantic love to life's promises and disappointments. Whenever I'm feeling particularly somber, hers are the poems to which I am drawn. Which, perhaps, was a factor in my selection of her.

But all to your gain, right? Here is one of my favorites, a poem that makes me think of one of my books (Not Effigy)...

Witch-Wife

She is neither pink nor pale
And she will never be all mine;
She learned her hands in a fairy-tale,
And her mouth on a valentine.

She has more hair than she needs;
In the sun 'tis a woe to me!
And her voice is a string of coloured beads,
Or steps leading into the sea.

She loves me all that she can,
And her ways to my ways resign;
But she was not made for any man,
And she will never be all mine.


Here's another of her poems that I like:

Elegy

Let them bury your big eyes
In the secret earth securely,
Your thin fingers, and your fair,
Soft, indefinite-coloured hair,-
All of these in some way, surely,
From the secret earth shall rise;
Not for these I sit and stare,
Broken and bereft completely;
Your young flesh that sat so neatly
On your little bones will sweetly
Blossom the air.

But your voice- never the rushing
Of a river underground,
Not the rising of the wind
In the trees before the rain,
Not the woodcock's watery call,
Not the note the white-throat utters,
Not the feet of children pushing
Yellow leaves along the gutters
In the blue and bitter fall,
Shall content my musing mind
For the beauty of that sound
That in no new way at all
Ever will be heard again.

Sweetly through the sappy stalk
Of vigorous weed,
Holding all it held before,
Cherished by the faithful sun,
On and on eternally
Shall your altered fluid run,
Bud and bloom and go to seed;
But your singing days are done;
But the music of your talk
Never shall the chemistry
Of the secret earth restore.
All your lovely words are spoken.
Once the ivory box is broken,
Beats the golden bird no more.


And finally, the poem she wrote that caught my attention in the first place:

I Shall Go Back

I shall go back again to the bleak shore
And build a little shanty on the sand
In such a way that the extremest band
Of brittle seaweed shall escape my door
But by a yard or two; and nevermore
Shall I return to take you by the hand.
I shall be gone to what I understand
And happier than I ever was before.
The love that stood a moment in your eyes,
The words that lay a moment on your tongue,
Are one with all that in a moment dies,
A little under-said and over-sung.
But I shall find the sullen rocks and skies
Unchanged from what they were when I was young.

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