Edna St. Vincent Millay
- And you as well must die, belovèd dust,
- And all your beauty stand you in no stead;
- This flawless, vital hand, this perfect head,
- This body of flame and steel, before the gust
- Of Death, or under his autumnal frost,
- Shall be as any leaf, be no less dead
- Than the first leaf that fell, — this wonder fled.
- Altered, estranged, disintegrated, lost.
- Nor shall my love avail you in your hour.
- In spite of all my love, you will arise
- Upon that day and wander down the air
- Obscurely as the unattended flower,
- It mattering not how beautiful you were,
- Or how belovèd above all else that dies.
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892–1950) grew up in Maine where she was raised by her divorced mother. Her long poem “Renascence,” written In 1912, when she was 19, appeared in a collection called The Lyric Year and clearly marked her as a poet of exceptional accomplishment. Millay attended Vassar College in New York and upon graduation moved to Greenwich Village, the artistic and bohemian capital of the United States. She published her first volume, A Few Figs from Thistles, in 1920 and the following year published Second April, in which this sonnet appeared. Two years later, in 1923, she published The Harp Weaver and Other Poems, which won the Pulitzer Prize. That same year, she married Eugen Boissevain. Bisexual and an outspoken feminist, Millay had many lovers, both male and female, before her marriage and, because she claimed that she and her husband had an “open” marriage, it is assumed that she had lovers during the marriage as well. They were, nonetheless, a devoted couple and were together until his death in 1949. Millay died the following year of heart failure after falling down a flight of stairs in her home. She is one of the masters of contemporary formal poetry and perhaps America’s foremost master of the sonnet. Her brilliant craft and acerbic wit are still greatly admired.