In the early part of the 20th century, Thomas Hardy said that America had two great attractions: the skyscraper and the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay. If I had to choose a single favorite poet, well, there’s no question it’d be her. I assure you she’ll be gracing the pages of this blog multiple times this month.
For now, though, let’s start with a few easily approachable verses from her second book, A Few Figs from Thistles. The great majority of her work may have more, shall we say, depth and complexity, but the simplicity and clarity of these short poems — statements about her nature — are a joy to discover and a wonderful introduction to her work.
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends–
It gives a lovely light!
Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!
Was it for this I uttered prayers,
And sobbed and cursed and kicked the stairs,
That now, domestic as a plate,
I should retire at half-past eight?
Cut if you will, with Sleep’s dull knife,
Each day to half its length, my friend,–
The years that Time takes off my life,
He’ll take from off the other end!