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A Sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay

  • What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
  • I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
  • Under my head till morning; but the rain
  • Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
  • Upon the glass and listen for reply,
  • And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
  • For unremembered lads that not again
  • Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
  • Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
  • Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
  • Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
  • I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
  • I only know that summer sang in me
  • A little while, that in me sings no more.


Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892–1950) was born in Rockland, Maine, and published her long poem “Renascence” when she was 20 years old. She attended Vassar College and upon graduation moved to Greenwich Village. In 1917, she published Renascence and Other Poems; in 1920, A Few Figs from Thistles; and in 1921, Second April. Two years later, in 1923, when she was 31 years old, Millay published The Harp Weaver and Other Poems, which won the Pulitzer Prize and from which this sonnet is taken. In that same year she married Eugen Jan Boissevain. A master of rhymed, metrical forms and a superb sonneteer, Millay wrote a poetry that was at once witty, perceptive, passionate, and exquisitely wrought. Beautiful and bisexual, she had many lovers both before and during her marriage. Despite the fact that by the 1940s critical attention was focusing on the complex high modernists and Millay’s brilliant achievements in strict form began to fade into the background of literary fashion, she remains widely read and admired. Critical fashion notwithstanding, she remains one of America’s greatest 20th-century poets.

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  • What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
  • I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
  • Under my head till morning; but the rain
  • Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
  • Upon the glass and listen for reply,
  • And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
  • For unremembered lads that not again
  • Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
  • Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
  • Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
  • Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
  • I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
  • I only know that summer sang in me
  • A little while, that in me sings no more.


Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892–1950) was born in Rockland, Maine, and published her long poem “Renascence” when she was 20 years old. She attended Vassar College and upon graduation moved to Greenwich Village. In 1917, she published Renascence and Other Poems; in 1920, A Few Figs from Thistles; and in 1921, Second April. Two years later, in 1923, when she was 31 years old, Millay published The Harp Weaver and Other Poems, which won the Pulitzer Prize and from which this sonnet is taken. In that same year she married Eugen Jan Boissevain. A master of rhymed, metrical forms and a superb sonneteer, Millay wrote a poetry that was at once witty, perceptive, passionate, and exquisitely wrought. Beautiful and bisexual, she had many lovers both before and during her marriage. Despite the fact that by the 1940s critical attention was focusing on the complex high modernists and Millay’s brilliant achievements in strict form began to fade into the background of literary fashion, she remains widely read and admired. Critical fashion notwithstanding, she remains one of America’s greatest 20th-century poets.

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Comments
8

applause sonneteer par excellence!!! ;-S

Nov. 10, 2011

Absolutely perfect poem by which to embark this day! Lovely, lovely, lovely!!

Nov. 14, 2011

I refer you, among all the the words of Millay's, "Not For a Nation." It was printed in a book of her poetry, "Mine the Harvest."

If anyone can find it on the Web, please provide a link here.

If not, the book should be in the library and someone could post it to a website.

Nov. 14, 2011

here is some for sell thru Amazon 4 about $12.00 Twister

http://www.amazon.com/MINE-HARVEST-Edna-Vincent-Millay/dp/B000K0AA4Q

Nov. 19, 2011

. . . or through bookfinder.com for <$4.

http://www.bookfinder.com/search/?author=&title=%22Mine+the+Harvest%22&lang=en&isbn=&submit=Search&new_used=*&destination=us&currency=USD&mode=basic&st=sr&ac=qr

Nov. 19, 2011

oh that's a much better price Twister...thx ;-D

i hadn't noticed this; Beautiful and bisexual, she had many lovers both before and during her marriage

this makes me like her even more....hahahahahahahaha

Nov. 21, 2011

All writers, especially poets, should read Millay's introduction to her (and George Dillon's) translation of le Fleurs du Mal, "Flowers of Evil." It may be the best essay on translation ever written. Of course, reading the poem is also advisable.

Nov. 21, 2011

thx Twister...i will look 4 it and read it...i could use some poetic refinement lately

i just purchased it (on ur recommendation) from Amazon

i'm excited!!!

Happy Thanksgiving Twister ;-D

Nov. 21, 2011

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