Thursday, March 31, 2011



White with daisies and red with sorrel
And empty, empty under the sky!--
Life is a quest and love a quarrel--
Here is a place for me to lie.
Daisies dpring from damnèd seeds,
And this red fire that here I see
Is a worthless crop of crimson weeds,
Cursed by farmers thriftily.
But here, unhated for an hour,
The sorrel runs in ragged flame,
The daisy stands, a bastard flower,
Like flowers that bear an honest name.
And here a while, where no wind brings
The baying of a pack athirst,
May sleep the sleep of blessèd things,
The blood too bright, the brow accurst.

(From "Second April" 1921)

I apologize for my brief hiatus from posting. Life has gotten in the way of poetry once again, but I'm "back to good" now, to quote Matchbox 20.

How many times have I expressed a sentiment similar to Vincent's third line in this poem "Life is a quest and love a quarrel" and recently it seems more true than ever. But in nature, especially in the Springtime we have recently been blessed with in New England, we can find comrades and resting places for our troubles and stresses and "sleep the sleep of blessèd things."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011



No matter what I say,
All that I really love
Is the rain that flattens on the bay,
And the eel-grass in the cove;
The jingle-shells that lie and bleach
At the tide-line, and the trace
Of higher tides along the beach:
Nothing in this place.

(From "Second April" 1921)

I love the imagery of the shells sitting on the beach where the tide has left them, and the line on the beach where the water was when the tide has gone out. Lately I am remembering how important it is to visit the ocean, and let the beauty of nature overcome daily stresses.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Time Sonnet

Time, that renews the tissues of this frame,
That built the child and hardened the soft bone,
Taught him to wail, to blink, to walk alone,
Stare, question, wonder, give the world a name,
Forget the watery darkness from whence he came,
Attends no less the boy to manhood grown,
Brings him new raiment, strips him of his own;
All skins are shed at length, remorse, even shame.
Such hope is mine, if this indeed be true,
I dread no more the first white in my hair,
Or even age itself, the easy shoe,
The cane, the wrinkled hands, the special chair:
Time, doing this to me, may alter too
My anguish, into something I can bear.

(From "Wine From These Grapes" 1934)

This sonnet seems to flow through a lifetime in a minute.

Monday, March 14, 2011

City Trees

City Trees

The trees along this city street,
Save for the traffic and the trains,
Would make a sound as thin and sweet
As trees in country lanes.

And people standing in their shade
Out of a shower, undoubtedly
Would hear such music as is made
Upon a country tree.

Oh, little leaves that are so dumb
Against the shrieking city air,
I watch you when the wind has come,--
I know what sound is there.

(From "Second April" 1921)

There is such beautiful music in the trees outside, with a little wind rushing through them in the sunshine. Spring is here, in the city and the towns.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Goose Girl

Goose Girl

Spring rides no horses down the hill,
But comes on foot, a goose-girl still.
And all the loveliest things there be
Come simply, so, it seems to me.
If ever I said, in grief or pride,
I tired of honest things, I lied:
And should be cursed forevermore
With Love in laces, like a whore,
And neighbours cold, and friends unsteady,
And Spring on horseback, like a lady!

(From "Harpweaver" 1923)

Today the river, which has been frozen over for months, was flowing as freely as summer between its ice-covered banks. Spring is moving in by little steps, and soon flowers will be blooming. Things that seemed exciting in their cloudy disguises have lost their allure. Nature roots us back to honest, good things, both in ourselves and in others.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011



For the sake of some things
That be now no more
I will strew rushes
On my chamber-floor,
I will plant bergamot
At my kitchen-door.
For the sake of dim things
That were once so plain
I will set a barrel
Out to catch the rain,
I will hang an iron pot
On an iron crane.
Many things be dead and gone
That were brave and gay;
For the sake of these things
I will learn to say,
"An it please you, gentle sirs,"
"Alack!" and "Well-a-day!"

(From "Second April" 1921)

The ways we remember people and relationship that were dear to us are not always direct, but personal symbolisms have meanings that can ease the pain of loss.

Fatal Interview - Sonnet III "No Lack of Counsel"

No lack of counsel from the shrewd and wise
How love may be acquired and how conserved
Warrants this laying bare before your eyes
My needle to your north abruptly swerved;
If I would hold you, I must hide my fears
Lest you be wanton, lead you to believe
My compass to another quarter veers,
Little surrender, lavishly receive.
But being like my mother the brown earth
Fervent and full of gifts and free from guile,
Liefer would I you loved me for my worth,
Though you should love me but a little while,
Than for a philtre any doll can brew, —
Though thus I bound you as I long to do.

(From "Fatal Interview" 1931)

This is the third sonnet in the Fatal Interview set, and it sets the tone early on for how her relationship with Dillon went. I love the compass metaphor and her declaration that she would rather be loved for her who she really is.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

"I Shall Go Back Again"

I shall go back again to the bleak shore
And build a little shanty on the sand
In such a way that the extremest band
Of brittle seaweed shall escape my door
But by a yard or two; and nevermore
Shall I return to take you by the hand.
I shall be gone to what I understand,
And happier than I ever was before.
The love that stood a moment in your eyes,
The words that lay a moment on your tongue,
Are one with all that in a moment dies,
A little under-said and over-sung.
But I shall find the sullen rocks and skies
Unchanged from what they were when I was young.

(From "Harpweaver" 1923)

Ocean imagery, love lost, nature rediscovered and a passion undefeated by heartache. The last two lines are my favorite.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Here In A Rocky Cup of Earth

Here In A Rocky Cup of Earth

Here in a rocky cup of earth
The simple acorn brought to birth
What has in ages grown to be
A very oak, a mighty tree.
The granite of the rock is split
And crumbled by the girth of it.

Incautious was the rock to feed
The acorn's mouth; unwise indeed
Am I, upon whose stony heart
Fell softly down, sits quietly,
The seed of love's imperial tree
That soon may force my breast apart.

"I fear you not. I have no doubt
My meagre soil shall starve you out!"

Unless indeed you prove to be
The kernel of a kingly tree;

Which if you be I am content
To go the way the granite went,
And be myself no more at all,
So you but prosper and grow tall.

(From "Mine the Harvest" 1954)

This poem always draws me in with its beauty and courage. I can't fully relate to it yet but I love to believe I someday will.

The image of this tree sprung from a large rock is etched in my mind.

I hope you enjoy it as well.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sonnet X From "Sonnets From An Ungrafted Tree"

She had forgotten how the August night
Was level as a lake beneath the moon,
In which she swam a little, losing sight
Of shore; and how the boy, who was at noon
Simple enough, not different from the rest,
Wore now a pleasant mystery as he went,
Which seemed to her an honest enough test
Whether she loved him, and she was content.
So loud, so loud the million crickets' choir . . .
So sweet the night, so long-drawn-out late . . .
And if the man were not her spirit's mate,
Why was her body sluggish with desire?
Stark on the open field the moonlight fell,
But the oak tree's shadow was deep and black and secret as a well.

(From "Harpweaver and Other Poems" 1923)

This is the first poem I'm sharing from a collection Millay titled "Sonnets From An Ungrafted Tree" which she published the "Harpweaver" collection in 1923. These sonnets tell the story of a woman who is caring for her dying husband, who she has been separated from for many years. This particular poem is part of a two poem set that tells her memories of how they met many years ago.

In the frigid cold of March, the passion of this poem and its description of a warm summer night are especially wonderful. The story it tells, of interpreting desire as love, is a familiar one that reminds me of the dialouge in Williams' "Streetcar Named Desire." I love the way that Millay phrases the rationalization her character is engaging in "Which seemed to her an honest enough test/ Whether she loved him." The rest of the sonnet series tells us that it was not love, but I'll save the rest for later.