Sunday, December 15, 2013

Fatal Interview XLVI

Even in the moment of our earliest kiss,
When sighed the straitened bud into the flower,
Sat the dry seed of most unwelcome this;
And that I knew, though not the day and hour.
Too season-wise am I, being country-bred,
 To tilt at autumn or defy the frost:
Snuffing the chill even as my fathers did,
I say with them, "What's out tonight is lost."
I only hoped, with the mild hope of all
Who watch the leaf take shape upon the tree,
A fairer summer and a later fall
Than in these parts a man is apt to see,
And sunny clusters ripened for the wine:
I tell you this across the blackened vine.

How often do we think back and recall our early hesitations, which we had forgotten in haste with the heat of new love? Vincent truly was country-bred, and even at her final home at Steepletop maintained beautiful and elaborate outdoor gardens. Here she likens the eternal hope of a growing spring to the hope of a new romance, but in retrospect. Fall has come, the vines are black, love has expired.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Late January

Pluviose, hating all that lives, and loathing me,
Distills his cold and gloomy rain and slops it down
Upon the pallid lodgers in the cemetery
Next door, and on the people shopping in the town.

My cat, for sheer discomfort, waves a sparsely-furred
And shabby tail incessantly on the tiled floor;
And, wandering sadly in the rain- spout can be heard
The voice of some dead poet who had these rooms before.

The log is wet, and smokes; its hissing high lament
Mounts to the bronchial clock on the cracked mental there;
While (heaven knows whose they were - some dropsical old maid's)

In a soiled pack of cards that reeks of dirty scent,
The handsome jack of hearts and the worn in queen of spades
Talk in suggestive tones of their old love affair.

From "Translations from 'Flowers of Evil' by Charles Baudelaire" 1936

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sonnet "Once more into my arid days"

Once more into my arid days like dew,
Like wind from an oasis,or the sound
Of cold sweet water bubbling underground,
A treacherous messenger, the thought of you
Comes to destoroy me; once more I renew
Firm faith in your abundance, whom I found
Long since to be but just one other mound
Of sand, whereon no green thing ever grew.
And once again, and wiser in no wise
I chase your coloured phantom on the air,
And sob and curse and fall and weep and rise
And stumble pitifully on to where,
Miserable and lost, with stinging eyes,
Once more I clasp,- and there is nothing there.

From "Second April" 1921

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pity me not because the light of day
At close of day no longer walks the sky;
Pity me not for beauties passed away
From field and thicket as the year goes by;
Pity me not the waning of the moon,
Nor that the ebbing tide goes out to sea,
Nor that a man's desire is hushed so soon,
And you no longer look with love on me.

This I have known always: Love is no more
Than the wide blossom the the wind assails,
Than the great tide that treads the shifting shore,
Strewing fresh wreckage gathered in the gales.

Pity me that the heart is slow to learn
What the swift mind beholds at every turn.

Published around 1929 - Still looking this up

Just a beautiful poem about love and loss and nature. No real reason, just thought I'd share it today.

Saturday, July 9, 2011



We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed "Good morrow, mother!" to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, "God bless you!" for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

From "A Few Figs From Thistles" 1922

This poem is one of Millay's more fun and (I like to think) summery pieces. It is about comraderie and travel and generosity and love. I wonder which ferries she was riding on - perhaps some of the same routes that travel now between Rockland and the islands of North Haven and Vinalhaven in Penobscot Bay.

Islands you travel to by ferry; apples and pears and subway fares and a beautiful sunrise - so many ways in which Maine and Washington are twins, sitting a country apart at similar latitudes.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


It's little I care what path I take,
And where it leads it's little I care;
But out of this house, lest my heart break,
I must go, and off somewhere.

It's little I know what's in my heart,
What's in my mind it's little I know,
But there's that in me must up and start,
And it's little I care where my feet go.

I wish I could walk for a day and a night,
And find me at dawn in a desolate place
With never the rut of a road in sight,
Nor the roof of a house, nor the eyes of a face.

I wish I could walk till my blood should spout,
And drop me, never to stir again,
On a shore that is wide, for the tide is out,
And the weedy rocks are bare to the rain.

But dump or dock, where the path I take
Brings up, it's little enough I care;
And it's little I'd mind the fuss they'll make,
Huddled dead in a ditch somewhere.

"Is something the matter, dear," she said,
"That you sit at your work so silently?"
"No, mother, no, 'twas a knot in my thread.
There goes the kettle, I'll make the tea."

(From "Harpweaver" 1923)

This poem is one of Millay's better known poems, in fact it has been set to music and you can hear it sung here:

But it is a strange little poem that conveys a youthful restlessness that is all-consuming and yet powerless. It is a very teenage poem in theme, but it is not from her earliest work. The nature imagery and the underlying drive of desperation are the remarkable points here. The rhyming is good, the verse structure is very Vincent, but I love this poem because it conveys beauty and agitation together and perfectly.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Never May The Fruit Be Plucked

Never, never may the fruit be plucked from the bough
And gathered into barrels.
He that would eat of love must eat it where it hangs.
Though the branches bend like reeds,
Though the ripe fruit splash in the grass or wrinkle on the tree,
He that would eat of love may bear away with him
Only what his belly can hold,
Nothing in the apron,
Nothing in the pockets.
Never, never may the fruit be gathered from the bough
And harvested in barrels.
The winter of love is a cellar of empty bins,
In an orchard soft with rot.

(From "Harpweaver" 1923)

I love the metaphor Millay employs throughout this poem. It is a reminder, warning and encouragement. The beauty and joy of love is an experience limited to the time frame it takes place in. There is no going back in time, and we often wish we had loved better and more fully when we look back. Vincent loved many people in her life and lost many of them. Her wisdom here was gained at a price, but the grace with which she conveys her knowledge in this simple poem shows her true talent as a poet.