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.