New England poet (Rockland, Maine) Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950) is someone whose almost Dorothy Parker-like wit and soulful depth can be quoted in bits and pieces with some satisfaction. With a complexity that moves beyond flippancy, her verse maneuvers itself in unexpected ways, sometimes leaving the reader in a quandary. I, for one, have been startled by Ms. Millay’s frankness and unexpected gravity as if she’s whimsical and chiding both at the same time.
Here are two poems of hers…
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But, ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It will give a lovely light!
from A Few Figs From Thistles (1920)
Love is Not All
Love is not all: It is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain,
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
and rise and sink and rise and sink again.
Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
pinned down by need and moaning for release
or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It may well be. I do not think I would.
Also known as Sonnet XXX from
Fatal Interview (1931)