Jul. 28

Edna St. Vincent Millay

84

The Poet

   I consider Edna St. Vincent Millay one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. She was first published as a teenager -- quite a feat for a poet.  Her Renascence was about a spiritual rebirth.  The first stanza:

 

     All I could see from where I stood

     Was three long mountains and a wood;

     I turned and looked another way,

     And saw three islands in a bay.

     So with my eyes I traced the line

     Of the horizon, thin and fine,

     Straight around til I was come

     Back to where I'd started from;

     And all I saw from where I stood

     Was three long mountains and a wood.

 

     Millay was quite the rebel, a woman far ahead of her time.  She traveled where she wanted to travel, said what she wanted to say, slept with whom she wanted to sleep, wrote what she wanted to write.  Though she lived a carefree life, there's a touch of sadness in most of her poems.  She wrote four-line poems, sonnets, long poems, poems about love, about death, about poetry.  Her lyrical voice still resonates today.  This is To Those Without Pity:

 

     Cruel of heart, lay down my song

     Your reading eyes have done me wrong

     Not for you was the pen bitten,

     And the mind wrung, and the song written.

 

     How long has it been since you picked up a book of poetry?  Try the complete works of Edna St. Vincent Millay.  As the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge so aptly described poetry -- "the best words in their best order."  And Millay does just that.

84 Comments

Cassidy Sepulvado

5 years, 3 months ago

The last two lines of To Those Without Pity are captivating. The simple three words "Not for you" are strong because they are incredibly precise. I admire that even amidst feelings of sadness her strength shines through. I do not typically care for poems which have a rhyming rhythym, but in this case it helps to make those last two lines stick inside of my head and remain there. I'm sure this was her intent. The last two lines, however simple in structure they may be, are bold at the least and stand strong against the two lines before them. To me, this poem portrays that her work is for herself and no one else, not even those reading it. Perhaps I've read it wrong, but I like the way she remains resilient even after being unjustly devoured by a cruel reader. It's ironic to say this, but if I have done her an injustice and read her poem incorrectly, I do not want to read it correctly. Because as it is, I fell in love with it.

Alexis W

5 years, 3 months ago

I love the first poem you put up, the imagry is so vivid i almost feel like i am there. The way she describes the horizon as "thin and fine," the "three islands in a bay," and the "three long mountains" helps me create a visual in my head. Although kind of confusing I picture a row of mountains, in front of a beach, with the sun setting. You said she like to write about spiritual rebirth, so i feel like the sun is setting, because her spirt has had its' full life and now it's time for her spirit to be reborn. "Back to where I'd started from" concretes my thoughts as though her spirit is reborn.

Vanessa Medrano

5 years, 3 months ago

The first poem caught my attention and I enjoyed reading.The imagery within the poem was exceptional and allowed for a vivid portrait to form in my thoughts. It almost seems dreamy as it talks about the landscape with “three long mountains and a wood,” and on the other side, she “saw three islands in a bay.” I imagine that as she is glancing out into the horizon, the landscape seems never ending. The setting sun gives the poem a very peaceful tone. In general, I enjoyed reading the poem for it enhanced the concept of imagery making it a poetic piece of art.

Miguel Chavez

5 years, 3 months ago

In the first poem, it's amazing how she describes her experience of simply observing nature and how mystical it is. The way she describes the horizon as "thin and fine" helps any reader easily paint a vivid picture of what she's trying to say. And then at the end, "back to where I'd started from" to me shows her spiritual rebirth and new outlook.

Tanner Landers

5 years, 3 months ago

The poem Renascence by Edna St. Vincent Millay, whom I see as a free spirit and a great poet, interested me with its smooth flow of imagery. She says she saw "three long mountains and a wood," "three islands in a bay," and ended up looking at the mountains again. Millay creates the image of herself soaking in the natural beauty that she is observing. She does the poetic universe justice with this masterpiece.

Kelly Lovett

5 years, 3 months ago

I love the imagery in this poem, it makes me feel as if i'm standing there next to her and seeing these three mountains. I also couldn't help but notice the three's in this poem. The "three long mountains and a wood", and the "three islands in a bay." I remeber you telling us something about how things in three always pop up everywhere, and when reading this poem for the first time, that's all i noticed until i read it again.
Ismail

2 years, 10 months ago

Peter / Lizzie writes, quitong our host, As to why all these men (and women) are circling Millay, desperately in love with her, while she doesn't return their feelings and is always on to her next conquest , well, that kind of glamorous, unavailable person is very attractive to some of us.' Well put. Same applys to poetry, methinks. (Perhaps that was a comparison she was already making?)As someone who does enjoy poetry but to whom appreciation didn't come readily (and I still don't like or get most anthologized poems and doubt I ever will and think c'est la vie ), I often find the apparent impenatrableness of certain lines to be the most exciting parts of an otherwise evocative poem. I keep going back to them, thirsty. More often than not, given enough readings and time, much of that thirst is quenched. And we all know how good water tastes when you're thirsty.
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Listening to the whispering pines

Hello. My name is Donna Cozart Pauley. Welcome to The Whispering Pines, a literary blog dedicated to my love of the written word. It is an eclectic collage of my life -- from my poems to my stories to my family to my pets to my causes to my photographs to my recipes to my love of teaching to my favorite literature. Please feel free to comment. Words are only important if they are heard or read. Just like those soundless trees falling in the forest.

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