poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay
I was amazed to receive this e-mail and poem (September
My name is [I conceal the name] and I am a freshman at [I conceal the
name] University, in Ohio. I have been working on a literary criticism
for the poem Menses, by Edna St. Vincent Millay,
and thought that the poem would be very interesting to your museum. After
touring the MUM Web site, I've even become surprised that the poem was
not mentioned. I've cut and pasted the poem in its full text below for
you to read. Please feel free to write back; I would love the feedback.
The poet (1992 -1950) was probably the most popular poet in the U.S.A.
in the 1930s, and Renascence her most remembered
poem. She seems to have lived a, um, very lively life, according to a recent
(He speaks, but to himself, being aware how it is with her)
Think not I have not heard.
Well-fanged the double word
And well-directed flew.
I felt it. Down my side
Innocent as oil I see the ugly venom slide:
Poison enough to stiffen us both, and all our friends;
But I am not pierced, so there the mischief ends.
There is more to be said: I see it coiling;
The impact will be pain.
Yet coil; yet strike again.
You cannot riddle the stout mail I wove
Long since, of wit and love.
As for my answer . . . stupid in the sun
He lies, his fangs drawn:
I will not war with you.
You know how wild you are. You are willing to be turned
To other matters; you would be grateful, even.
You watch me shyly. I (for I have learned
More things than one in our few years together)
Chafe at the churlish wind, the unseasonable weather.
"Unseasonable?" you cry, with harsher scorn
Than the theme warrants; "Every year it is the same!
'Unseasonable!' they whine, these stupid peasants! - - and never
since they were born
Have they known a spring less wintry! Lord, the shame,
The crying shame of seeing a man no wiser than the beasts he
His skull as empty as a shell!"
("Go to. You are unwell.")
Such is my thought, but such are not my words.
"What is the name," I ask, "of those big birds
With yellow breast and low and heavy flight,
That make such mournful whistling?"
You answer primly, not a little cheered.
"Some people shoot them." Suddenly your eyes are wet
And your chin trembles. On my breast you lean,
And sob most pitifully for all the lovely things that are not and
"How silly I am! -- and I know how silly I am!"
You say; "You are very patient. You are very kind.
I shall be better soon. Just Heaven consign and damn
To tedious Hell this body with its muddy feet in my mind!"
©2001 Harry Finley. It is illegal
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