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Edna St. Vincent Millay: Online 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 string 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 never will be all mine.

from Renascence and Other Poems (1917). Online Source

Sonnet I

Thou art not lovelier than lilacs,—no,
    Nor honeysuckle; thou art not more fair
    Than small white single poppies,—I can bear
Thy beauty; though I bend before thee, though
From left to right, not knowing where to go,
    I turn my troubled eyes, nor here nor there
    Find any refuge from thee, yet I swear
So has it been with mist,—with moonlight so.

Like him who day by day unto his draught
    Of delicate poison adds him one drop more
Till he may drink unharmed the death of ten,
Even so, inured to beauty, who have quaffed
    Each hour more deeply than the hour before,
I drink—and live—what has destroyed some men.

from Renascence and Other Poems (1917). Online Source


There will be rose and rhododendron
    When you are dead and under ground; 
Still will be heard from white syringas
    Heavy with bees, a sunny sound; 

Still will the tamaracks be raining
    After the rain has ceased, and still 
Will there be robins in the stubble,
    Brown sheep upon the warm green hill. 

Spring will not ail nor autumn falter;
    Nothing will know that you are gone, 
Saving alone some sullen plough-land
    None but yourself sets foot upon; 

Saving the may-weed and the pig-weed
    Nothing will know that you are dead,–
These, and perhaps a useless wagon
    Standing beside some tumbled shed. 

Oh, there will pass with your great passing
    Little of beauty not your own,– 
Only the light from common water,
    Only the grace from simple stone! 

from Second April (1921). Online Source



We talk of taxes, and I call you friend; 
Well, such you are,–but well enough we know 
How thick about us root, how rankly grow 
Those subtle weeds no man has need to tend, 
That flourish through neglect, and soon must send 
Perfume too sweet upon us and overthrow 
Our steady senses; how such matters go 
We are aware, and how such matters end. 
Yet shall be told no meagre passion here; 
With lovers such as we forevermore 
Isolde drinks the draught, and Guinevere 
Receives the Table's ruin through her door, 
Francesca, with the loud surf at her ear, 
Lets fall the colored book upon the floor.


Into the golden vessel of great song 
Let us pour all our passion; breast to breast 
Let other lovers lie, in love and rest; 
Not we,–articulate, so, but with the tongue 
Of all the world: the churning blood, the long 
Shuddering quiet, the desperate hot palms pressed 
Sharply together upon the escaping guest,
The common soul, unguarded, and grown strong. 
Longing alone is singer to the lute; 
Let still on nettles in the open sigh 
The minstrel, that in slumber is as mute 
As any man, and love be far and high, 
That else forsakes the topmost branch, a fruit 
Found on the ground by every passer-by. 


Not with libations, but with shouts and laughter 
We drenched the altars of Love's sacred grove, 
Shaking to earth green fruits, impatient after 
The launching of the colored moths of Love. 
Love's proper myrtle and his mother's zone 
We bound about our irreligious brows, 
And fettered him with garlands of our own, 
And spread a banquet in his frugal house. 
Not yet the god has spoken; but I fear 
Though we should break our bodies in his flame, 
And pour our blood upon his altar, here 
Henceforward is a grove without a name, 
A pasture to the shaggy goats of Pan, 
Whence flee forever a woman and a man. 


Only until this cigarette is ended, 
A little moment at the end of all,
While on the floor the quiet ashes fall,
And in the firelight to a lance extended,
Bizarrely with the jazzing music blended,
The broken shadow dances on the wall,
I will permit my memory to recall
The vision of you, by all my dreams attended.
And then adieu,–farewell!–the dream is done.
Yours is a face of which I can forget
The color and the features, every one,
The words not ever, and the smiles not yet;
But in your day this moment is the sun
Upon a hill, after the sun has set. 


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 destroy 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 colored 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. 


No rose that in a garden ever grew, 
In Homer's or in Omar's or in mine, 
Though buried under centuries of fine 
Dead dust of roses, shut from sun and dew 
Forever, and forever lost from view, 
But must again in fragrance rich as wine 
The grey aisles of the air incarnadine 
When the old summers surge into a new. 
Thus when I swear, "I love with all my heart," 
'Tis with the heart of Lilith that I swear, 
'Tis with the love of Lesbia and Lucrece; 
And thus as well my love must lose some part 
Of what it is, had Helen been less fair, 
Or perished young, or stayed at home in Greece. 


When I too long have looked upon your face, 
Wherein for me a brightness unobscured 
Save by the mists of brightness has its place, 
And terrible beauty not to be endured, 
I turn away reluctant from your light, 
And stand irresolute, a mind undone, 
A silly, dazzled thing deprived of sight 
From having looked too long upon the sun. 
Then is my daily life a narrow room 
In which a little while, uncertainly, 
Surrounded by impenetrable gloom, 
Among familiar things grown strange to me 
Making my way, I pause; and feel, and hark, 
Till I become accustomed to the dark. 


And you as well must die, belovèd dust, 
And all your beauty stand you in no stead; 
This flawless, vital hand, this perfect head, 
This body of flame and steel, before the gust 
Of Death, or under his autumnal frost, 
Shall be as any leaf, be no less dead 
Than the first leaf that fell,–this wonder fled, 
Altered, estranged, disintegrated, lost. 
Nor shall my love avail you in your hour. 
In spite of all my love, you will arise 
Upon that day and wander down the air 
Obscurely as the unattended flower, 
It mattering not how beautiful you were, 
Or how belovèd above all else that dies. 


Let you not say of me when I am old, 
In pretty worship of my withered hands 
Forgetting who I am, and how the sands 
Of such a life as mine run red and gold 
Even to the ultimate sifting dust, "Behold, 
Here walketh passionless age!"–for there expands 
A curious superstition in these lands, 
And by its leave some weightless tales are told. 

In me no lenten wicks watch out the night; 
I am the booth where Folly holds her fair;
Impious no less in ruin than in strength, 
When I lie crumbled to the earth at length, 
Let you not say, "Upon this reverend site 
The righteous groaned and beat their breasts in prayer." 


Oh, my belovèd, have you thought of this:
How in the years to come unscrupulous Time,
More cruel than Death, will tear you from my kiss,
And make you old, and leave me in my prime?
How you and I, who scale together yet
A little while the sweet, immortal height
No pilgrim may remember or forget,
As sure as the world turns, some granite night
Shall lie awake and know the gracious flame
Gone out forever on the mutual stone;
And call to mind that on the day you came
I was a child, and you a hero grown ?–
And the night pass, and the strange morning break
Upon our anguish for each other's sake ! 


As to some lovely temple, tenantless 
Long since, that once was sweet with shivering brass, 
Knowing well its altars ruined and the grass 
Grown up between the stones, yet from excess 
Of grief hard driven, or great loneliness, 
The worshiper returns, and those who pass 
Marvel him crying on a name that was,–
So is it now with me in my distress. 
Your body was a temple to Delight; 
Cold are its ashes whence the breath is fled, 
Yet here one time your spirit was wont to move; 
Here might I hope to find you day or night, 
And here I come to look for you, my love, 
Even now, foolishly, knowing you are dead.


Cherish you then the hope I shall forget
At length, my lord, Pieria?–put away
For your so passing sake, this mouth of clay,
These mortal bones against my body set,
For all the puny fever and frail sweat
Of human love,–renounce for these, I say,
The Singing Mountain's memory, and betray
The silent lyre that hangs upon me yet?
Ah, but indeed, some day shall you awake,
Rather, from dreams of me, that at your side
So many nights, a lover and a bride,
But stern in my soul's chastity, have lain,
To walk the world forever for my sake,
And in each chamber find me gone again! 

from Second April (1921). Online Source


And if I loved you Wednesday,
    Well, what is that to you?
I do not love you Thursday– 
    So much is true. 

And why you come complaining
    Is more than I can see.
I loved you Wednesday,–yes–but what 
    Is that to me? 

from A Few Figs from Thistles (1922). Online Source



Love, though for this you riddle me with darts, 
And drag me at your chariot till I die,–
Oh, heavy prince! O, panderer of hearts!–
Yet hear me tell how in their throats they lie
Who shout you mighty: thick about my hair,
Day in, day out, your ominous arrows purr,
Who still am free, unto no querulous care
A fool, and in no temple worshiper!
I, that have bared me to your quiver's fire, 
Lifted my face into its puny rain,
Do wreathe you Impotent to Evoke Desire
As you are Powerless to Elicit Pain!
(Now will the god, for blasphemy so brave,
Punish me, surely, with the shaft I crave!) 


I think I should have loved you presently,
And given in earnest words I flung in jest;
And lifted honest eyes for you to see,
And caught your hand against my cheek and breast;
And all my pretty follies flung aside
That won you to me, and beneath your gaze,
Naked of reticence and shorn of pride, 
Spread like a chart my little wicked ways.
I, that had been to you, had you remained, 
But one more waking from a recurrent dream,
Cherish no less the certain stakes I gained,
And walk your memory's halls, austere, supreme,
A ghost in marble of a girl you knew
Who would have loved you in a day or two. 


Oh, think not I am faithful to a vow!
Faithless am I save to love's self alone.
Were you not lovely I would leave you now:
After the feet of beauty fly my own. 
Were you not still my hunger's rarest food,
And water ever to my wildest thirst,
I would desert you–think not but I would!–
And seek another as I sought you first. 
But you are mobile as the veering air,
And all your charms more changeful than the tide,
Wherefore to be inconstant is no care:
I have but to continue at your side.
So wanton, light and false, my love, are you,
I am most faithless when I most am true. 


I shall forget you presently, my dear,
So make the most of this, your little day, 
Your little month, your little half a year,
Ere I forget, or die, or move away,
And we are done forever; by and by
I shall forget you, as I said, but now,
If you entreat me with your loveliest lie
I will protest you with my favorite vow. 
I would indeed that love were longer-lived,
And vows were not so brittle as they are, 
But so it is, and nature has contrived
To struggle on without a break thus far,–
Whether or not we find what we are seeking
Is idle, biologically speaking.

from A Few Figs from Thistles (1922). Online Source

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