Edna St. Vincent Millay
Edna St. Vincent Millay,a poet and playwrite, was best known for her lyrical poetry.She wrote many poems, on topics such as love, fidelity, erotic desire, and feminist issues.The part of Millay that wasnt highly publicized is that she addressed herself as a bisexual and had many affairs with woman before her marriage.It is not said if she continued sexual involments with women after her marriage (though it is quite possible), nor it is not said which of her poems are written about women rather than men.
Edna St. Vincent Millay grew up in a different sort of family.Born February 22, 1892 in Rockland, Maine, and the oldest of three daughters of Henry Tolman Millay and Cora Lounella (Buzelle) Millay. When Edna was around the age eight her mother divorced her father.After the divorce her mother worked as a nurse to support the family.Her mother encouraged Edna and her sisters to study music and literature and urged them to be independent and ambitious.
Ednas first published poem “Forest Trees.” Written when she was fourteen, appeared in St. Nicholas Magazine (October 1906).With in the next four years, St. Nicholas published five more of her poems one of which, “The Land of Romance” received a gold badge of the St. Nicholas League and later was reprinted in Current Literature (April 1907).In 1912 “Renascence” one of Millays poems was anthologized in The Lyric Year and met with critical acclaim.
When Millays poems were published she gained literary recognition and earned a scholarship to Vassar.At Vassar she continued to write poetry and became involved in the theater.In 1922 one of her plays The Harp Weaver was awarded the Palitzer Prize.Millay also published a book of poems in 1922 called “A Few Figs from Thistles” in this volume, she described female sexuality in a way that gained her much attention, as she put fourth the idea that a women has every right to sexual pleasure and no obligation to fidelity.
Following her successes in the 1920s and early 1930s, Millays poetry gradually suffered a critical and popular decline.Unfortunately, her real poetic achievements were overshadowed by her image as the free (but “naughty”) woman of the 1920s. During the last two decades of her life, millay was almost ignored critically, although her Collected Sonnets appeared in 1941.Since the late 1960s, however, there has been a renewed interest in Millays works.
On July 18,1923, she married Eugen Jan Boissevain.She then spent much of the next few years in reading engagements throughout the United States, and with her husband she toured the Orient in 1924.Boissevain, a native of the Netherlands and an importer, devoted his life to the poet.They lived Steepletop, their rural home in Austerlitz, N.Y., and at Ragged Island, their summer home in Casco Bay, Maine.Her health was precarious in 1939, and she became partly paralyzed in her right arm as an aftermath of a motor accident in 1936, undergoing prolonged medical treatment.The Second World War brought new strains.Anxiety for the safety of Boissevains family in German-occupied….. Holland and the loss of Boissevains holdings in the Dutch East Indies brought severe financial hardship.Boissevain died on August 30, 1949.
In the 1940s, her poems were frankly intended to arouse national patriotism and fervor.Make Bright the Arrows; 1940 Notebook (1940) and The Murder of Lidice (1942) contain a variety of these verses. Millay was elected to the American Academy of Arts and letters (1940) and received the gold medal of the Poetry Society of America (1943).
After her husbands death, Millay went on living in their isolated house in Austerlitz and died there alone of a heart attack on October 19, 1950.She was buried at Steepletop.She left in manuscript a number of current poems, as well as a number of unpublished poems from earlier periods.These were published posthumously in Mine the Harvest (1954).Two years later, her Collected Poems appeared.
Here are some of Edna St. Vincent Millays poems.
She is neither pink nor pale,
And she never will be all mine;
She learned her hands in a fairy-tale,
And her mouth on a valentine,
She has more hair than she needs;
In the sun tis a woe to me!
And her voice is a sting of colored beads,
Or steps leading into the sea,
She loves me all that she can,
And her ways to my ways resign;
But she was not made for any man,
And she will never be all mine.
Song of the Second April
April this year, nor other wise
Than April of a year ago,
Is full of whispers, full of sighs,
Of dazzling mud and dingy snow;
Hepaticas that pleased you so
Are here again, and butterflies.
There rings a hummering all day,
And shingles lie about the doors;
In orchards near and far away
The gray wood-pecker taps and bores;
And children earnest at their play.
The larger streams run still and deep,
Noisy and swift the small brooks run
Among the mullein stalks the sheep
Go up the hillside in the sun,
Pensively, only you are gone,
You that alone I cared to keep,
Why do you follow me?
Any moment I can be
Nothing but a laural-tree.
Any moment of the chase
T can leave you in my place
A pink bough for your embrace.
Yet if over hill and hollow
Still it is your will to follow,
I am off; to heel, Apollo!
To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.
I drank at every vine.
The last was like the first.
I came upon no wine
So wonderful as thirst.
I gnawed at every root.
I ate of every plant.
I came upon no fruit
So wonderful as want.
Feed the grape and bean
To the vinter and monger:
I will lie down lean
With my thirst and my hunger.