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.