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Edna St Vincent Millay

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 2 months ago

For the following Edna St. Vincent Millay poems, look at the main ideas, the tone, and the characteristics of the poet's style:



I Too Beneath Your Moon, Almighty Sex

I too beneath your moon, almighty Sex,

Go forth at nightfall crying like a cat,

Leaving the lofty tower I labored at

For birds to foul and boys and girls to vex

With tittering chalk; and you, and the long necks

Of neighbors sitting where their mothers sat

Are well aware of shadowy this and that

In me, that's neither noble nor complex.

Such as I am, however, I have brought

To what it is, this tower; it is my own;

Though it was reared To Beauty, it was wrought

From what I had to build with: honest bone

Is there, and anguish; pride; and burning thought;

And lust is there, and nights not spent alone.

Sonnet XXXI

Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!

Give me back my book and take my kiss instead.

Was it my enemy or my friend I heard,

``What a big book for such a little head!''

Come, I will show you now my newest hat,

And you may watch me purse my mouth and prink!

Oh, I shall love you still, and all of that.

I never again shall tell you what I think.

I shall be sweet and crafty, soft and sly;

You will not catch me reading any more:

I shall be called a wife to pattern by;

And some day when you knock and push the door,

Some sane day, not too bright and not too stormy,

I shall be gone, and you may whistle for me.

Sonnet XLI

I, being born a woman and distressed

By all the needs and notions of my kind,

Am urged by your propinquity to find

Your person fair, and feel a certain zest

To bear your body's weight upon my breast:

So subtly is the fume of life designed,

To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,

And leave me once again undone, possessed.

Think not for this, however, the poor treason

Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,

I shall remember you with love, or season

My scorn with pity,--let me make it plain:

I find this frenzy insufficient reason

For conversation when we meet again.


•    Read last Millay poem together and discuss the contrast.

Edna St. Vincent Millay - An Ancient Gesture

I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:

Penelope did this too.

And more than once: you can't keep weaving all day

And undoing it all through the night;

Your arms get tired, and the back of your neck gets tight;

And along towards morning, when you think it will never be light,

And your husband has been gone, and you don't know where, for years.

Suddenly you burst into tears;

There is simply nothing else to do.

And I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:

This is an ancient gesture, authentic, antique,

In the very best tradition, classic, Greek;

Ulysses did this too.

But only as a gesture,—a gesture which implied

To the assembled throng that he was much too moved to speak.

He learned it from Penelope...

Penelope, who really cried.


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