88 Works of Edna St Vincent Millay
When I too long have looked upon your face,Wherein for me a brightness unobscuredSave 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 sightFrom having looked too long upon the sun.Then is my daily […]
And you as well must die, beloved 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 gustOf Death, or under his autumnal frost,Shall be as any leaf, be no less deadThan the first leaf that fell,–this wonder fled.Altered, estranged, disintegrated, lost.Nor shall […]
Let you not say of me when I am old,In pretty worship of my withered handsForgetting who I am, and how the sandsOf such a life as mine run red and goldEven to the ultimate sifting dust, “Behold,Here walketh passionless age!”–for there expandsA curious superstition in these lands,And by its leave some weightless tales are […]
As to some lovely temple, tenantlessLong since, that once was sweet with shivering brass,Knowing well its altars ruined and the grassGrown up between the stones, yet from excessOf grief hard driven, or great loneliness,The worshiper returns, and those who passMarvel him crying on a name that was,–So is it now with me in my distress.Your […]
Oh, my beloved, 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 yetA little while the sweet, immortal heightNo pilgrim may remember or forget,As sure as the world […]
Cherish you then the hope I shall forgetAt length, my lord, Pieria?–put awayFor your so passing sake, this mouth of clayThese mortal bones against my body set,For all the puny fever and frail sweatOf human love,–renounce for these, I say,The Singing Mountain’s memory, and betrayThe silent lyre that hangs upon me yet?Ah, but indeed, some […]
I looked in my heart while the wild swans went over.And what did I see I had not seen before?Only a question less or a question more;Nothing to match the flight of wild birds flying.Tiresome heart, forever living and dying,House without air, I leave you and lock your door.Wild swans, come over the town, come […]
We talk of taxes, and I call you friend;Well, such you are,–but well enough we knowHow thick about us root, how rankly growThose subtle weeds no man has need to tend,That flourish through neglect, and soon must sendPerfume too sweet upon us and overthrowOur steady senses; how such matters goWe are aware, and how such […]
Not with libations, but with shouts and laughterWe drenched the altars of Love’s sacred grove,Shaking to earth green fruits, impatient afterThe launching of the colored moths of Love.Love’s proper myrtle and his mother’s zoneWe bound about our irreligious brows,And fettered him with garlands of our own,And spread a banquet in his frugal house.Not yet the […]
Into the golden vessel of great songLet us pour all our passion; breast to breastLet other lovers lie, in love and rest;Not we,–articulate, so, but with the tongueOf all the world: the churning blood, the longShuddering quiet, the desperate hot palms pressedSharply together upon the escaping guest,The common soul, unguarded, and grown strong.Longing alone is […]
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 recallThe vision of you, by all my dreams attended.And then adieu,–farewell!–the dream […]
Once more into my arid days like dew,Like wind from an oasis, or the soundOf cold sweet water bubbling underground,A treacherous messenger, the thought of youComes to destroy me; once more I renewFirm faith in your abundance, whom I foundLong since to be but just one other moundOf sand, whereon no green thing ever grew.And […]
No rose that in a garden ever grew,In Homer’s or in Omar’s or in mine,Though buried under centuries of fineDead dust of roses, shut from sun and dewForever, and forever lost from view,But must again in fragrance rich as wineThe grey aisles of the air incarnadineWhen the old summers surge into a new.Thus when I […]
Doubt no more that Oberon–Never doubt that PanLived, and played a reed, and ranAfter nymphs in a dark forest,In the merry, credulous days,–Lived, and led a fairy bandOver the indulgent land!Ah, for in this dourest, sorestAge man’s eye has looked upon,Death to fauns and death to fays,Still the dog-wood dares to raise–Healthy tree, with trunk […]
Aye, but she?Your other sister and my other soulGrave Silence, lovelierThan the three loveliest maidens, what of her?Clio, not you,Not you, Calliope,Nor all your wanton line,Not Beauty’s perfect self shall comfort meFor Silence once departed,For her the cool-tongued, her the tranquil-hearted,Whom evermore I follow wistfully,Wandering Heaven and Earth and Hell and the four seasons through;Thalia, […]
Searching my heart for its true sorrow,This is the thing I find to be:That I am weary of words and people,Sick of the city, wanting the sea; Wanting the sticky, salty sweetnessOf the strong wind and shattered spray;Wanting the loud sound and the soft soundOf the big surf that breaks all day. Always before about […]
[VASSAR COLLEGE, 1918] Oh, loveliest throat of all sweet throats,Where now no more the music is,With hands that wrote you little notesI write you little elegies!
Be to her, Persephone,All the things I might not be;Take her head upon your knee.She that was so proud and wild,Flippant, arrogant and free,She that had no need of me,Is a little lonely childLost in Hell,–Persephone,Take her head upon your knee;Say to her, “My dear, my dear,It is not so dreadful here.” CHORUS Give away […]
People that build their houses inland,People that buy a plot of groundShaped like a house, and build a house there,Far from the sea-board, far from the sound Of water sucking the hollow ledges,Tons of water striking the shore,–What do they long for, as I long forOne salt smell of the sea once more? People the […]
I know what my heart is likeSince your love died:It is like a hollow ledgeHolding a little poolLeft there by the tide,A little tepid pool,Drying inward from the edge.
Minstrel, what have you to doWith this man that, after you,Sharing not your happy fate,Sat as England’s Laureate?Vainly, in these iron days,Strives the poet in your praise,Minstrel, by whose singing sideBeauty walked, until you died. Still, though none should hark again,Drones the blue-fly in the pane,Thickly crusts the blackest moss,Blows the rose its musk across,Floats […]
OH, come again to Astolat!I will not ask you to be kind.And you may go when you will go,And I will stay behind. I will not say how dear you are,Or ask you if you hold me dear,Or trouble you with things for youThe way I did last year. So still the orchard, Lancelot,So very […]
Mine is a body that should die at sea!And have for a grave, instead of a graveSix feet deep and the length of me,All the water that is under the wave! And terrible fishes to seize my flesh,Such as a living man might fear,And eat me while I am firm and fresh,–Not wait till I’ve […]
Butterflies are white and blueIn this field we wander through.Suffer me to take your hand.Death comes in a day or two. All the things we ever knewWill be ashes in that hour,Mark the transient butterfly,How he hangs upon the flower. Suffer me to take your hand.Suffer me to cherish youTill the dawn is in the […]
OH, here the air is sweet and still,And soft’s the grass to lie on;And far away’s the little hillThey took for Christ to die on. And there’s a hill across the brook,And down the brook’s another;But, oh, the little hill they took,–I think I am its mother! The moon that saw Gethsemane,I watch it rise […]
I I had forgotten how the frogs must soundAfter a year of silence, else I thinkI should not so have ventured forth aloneAt dusk upon this unfrequented road. II I am waylaid by Beauty. Who will walkBetween me and the crying of the frogs?Oh, savage Beauty, suffer me to pass,That am a timid woman, on […]
If it were only still!–With far away the shrillCrying of a cock;Or the shaken bellFrom a cow’s throatMoving through the bushes;Or the soft shockOf wizened apples fallingFrom an old treeIn a forgotten orchardUpon the hilly rock! Oh, grey hill,Where the grazing herdLicks the purple blossom,Crops the spiky weed!Oh, stony pasture,Where the tall mulleinStands up so […]
These wet rocks where the tide has been,Barnacled white and weeded brownAnd slimed beneath to a beautiful green,These wet rocks where the tide went downWill show again when the tide is highFaint and perilous, far from shore,No place to dream, but a place to die,–The bottom of the sea once more.There was a child that […]
April this year, not otherwiseThan April of a year ago,Is full of whispers, full of sighs,Of dazzling mud and dingy snow;Hepaticas that pleased you soAre here again, and butterflies. There rings a hammering all day,And shingles lie about the doors;In orchards near and far awayThe grey wood-pecker taps and bores;The men are merry at their […]
For the sake of some thingsThat be now no moreI will strew rushesOn my chamber-floor,I will plant bergamotAt my kitchen-door. For the sake of dim thingsThat were once so plainI will set a barrelOut to catch the rain,I will hang an iron potOn an iron crane. Many things be dead and goneThat were brave and […]
Down, you mongrel, Death!Back into your kennel!I have stolen breathIn a stalk of fennel!You shall scratch and you shall whineMany a night, and you shall worryMany a bone, before you buryOne sweet bone of mine! When shall I be dead?When my flesh is withered,And above my headYellow pollen gatheredAll the empty afternoon?When sweet lovers pause […]
Not in this chamber only at my birth–When the long hours of that mysterious nightWere over, and the morning was in sight–I cried, but in strange places, steppe and firthI have not seen, through alien grief and mirth;And never shall one room contain me quiteWho in so many rooms first saw the light,Child of all […]
There will be rose and rhododendronWhen you are dead and under ground;Still will be heard from white syringasHeavy with bees, a sunny sound; Still will the tamaracks be rainingAfter the rain has ceased, and stillWill there be robins in the stubble,Brown sheep upon the warm green hill. Spring will not ail nor autumn falter;Nothing will […]
If I should learn, in some quite casual way,That you were gone, not to return again–Read from the back-page of a paper, say,Held by a neighbor in a subway train,How at the corner of this avenueAnd such a street (so are the papers filled)A hurrying man–who happened to be you–At noon to-day had happened to […]
This door you might not open, and you did;So enter now, and see for what slight thingYou are betrayed. . . . Here is no treasure hid,No cauldron, no clear crystal mirroringThe sought-for truth, no heads of women slainFor greed like yours, no writhings of distress,But only what you see. . . . Look yet […]
Ho, Giant! This is I!I have built me a bean-stalk into your sky!La,–but it’s lovely, up so high! This is how I came,–I putHere my knee, there my foot,Up and up, from shoot to shoot–And the blessed bean-stalk thinningLike the mischief all the time,Till it took me rocking, spinning,In a dizzy, sunny circle,Making angles with […]
Death devours all lovely things;Lesbia with her sparrowShares the darkness,–presentlyEvery bed is narrow. Unremembered as old rainDries the sheer libation,And the little petulant handIs an annotation. After all, my erstwhile dear,My no longer cherished,Need we say it was not love,Now that love is perished?
White with daisies and red with sorrelAnd empty, empty under the sky!–Life is a quest and love a quarrel–Here is a place for me to lie. Daisies spring from damned seeds,And this red fire that here I seeIs a worthless crop of crimson weeds,Cursed by farmers thriftily. But here, unhated for an hour,The sorrel runs […]
I cannot but rememberWhen the year grows old–October–November–How she disliked the cold! She used to watch the swallowsGo down across the sky,And turn from the windowWith a little sharp sigh. And often when the brown leavesWere brittle on the ground,And the wind in the chimneyMade a melancholy sound, She had a look about herThat I […]
Time does not bring relief; you all have liedWho told me time would ease me of my pain!I miss him in the weeping of the rain;I want him at the shrinking of the tide;The old snows melt from every mountain-side,And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;But last year’s bitter loving must remainHeaped on […]
Thou art not lovelier than lilacs,–no,Nor honeysuckle; thou art not more fairThan small white single poppies,–I can bearThy beauty; though I bend before thee, thoughFrom left to right, not knowing where to go,I turn my troubled eyes, nor here nor thereFind any refuge from thee, yet I swearSo has it been with mist,–with moonlight so. […]
Ah, could I lay me down in this long grassAnd close my eyes, and let the quiet windBlow over me–I am so tired, so tiredOf passing pleasant places! All my life,Following Care along the dusty road,Have I looked back at loveliness and sighed;Yet at my hand an unrelenting handTugged ever, and I passed. All my […]
Mindful of you the sodden earth in spring,And all the flowers that in the springtime grow,And dusty roads, and thistles, and the slowRising of the round moon, all throats that singThe summer through, and each departing wing,And all the nests that the bared branches show,And all winds that in any weather blow,And all the storms […]
No matter what I say,All that I really loveIs the rain that flattens on the bay,And the eel-grass in the cove;The jingle-shells that lie and bleachAt the tide-line, and the traceOf higher tides along the beach:Nothing in this place.
All the dog-wood blossoms are underneath the tree!Ere spring was going–ah, spring is gone!And there comes no summer to the like of you and me,–Blossom time is early, but no fruit sets on. All the dog-wood blossoms are underneath the tree,Browned at the edges, turned in a day;And I would with all my heart they […]
The trees along this city street,Save for the traffic and the trains,Would make a sound as thin and sweetAs trees in country lanes. And people standing in their shadeOut of a shower, undoubtedlyWould hear such music as is madeUpon a country tree. Oh, little leaves that are so dumbAgainst the shrieking city air,I watch you […]
Death, I say, my heart is bowedUnto thine,–O mother!This red gown will make a shroudGood as any other! (I, that would not wait to wearMy own bridal things,In a dress dark as my hairMade my answerings. I, to-night, that till he cameCould not, could not wait,In a gown as bright as flameHeld for them the […]
I said,–for Love was laggard, O, Love was slow to come,–“I’ll hear his step and know his step when I am warm in bed;But I’ll never leave my pillow, though there be someAs would let him in–and take him in with tears!” I said.I lay,–for Love was laggard, O, he came not until dawn,–I lay […]
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 […]
God had called us, and we came;Our loved Earth to ashes left;Heaven was a neighbor’s house,Open to us, bereft. Gay the lights of Heaven showed,And ’twas God who walked ahead;Yet I wept along the road,Wanting my own house instead. Wept unseen, unheeded cried,“All you things my eyes have kissed,Fare you well! We meet no more,Lovely, […]
I will be the gladdest thingUnder the sun!I will touch a hundred flowersAnd not pick one. I will look at cliffs and cloudsWith quiet eyes,Watch the wind bow down the grass,And the grass rise. And when lights begin to showUp from the town,I will mark which must be mine,And then start down!
Love has gone and left me and the days are all alike;Eat I must, and sleep I will,–and would that night were here!But ah!–to lie awake and hear the slow hours strike!Would that it were day again!–with twilight near! Love has gone and left me and I don’t know what to do;This or that or […]
I’ll keep a little tavernBelow the high hill’s crest,Wherein all grey-eyed peopleMay set them down and rest. There shall be plates a-plenty,And mugs to melt the chillOf all the grey-eyed peopleWho happen up the hill. There sound will sleep the traveller,And dream his journey’s end,But I will rouse at midnightThe falling fire to tend. Aye, […]
I knew her for a little ghostThat in my garden walked;The wall is high–higher than most–And the green gate was locked. And yet I did not think of thatTill after she was gone–I knew her by the broad white hat,All ruffled, she had on. By the dear ruffles round her feet,By her small hands that […]
Am I kin to Sorrow,That so oftFalls the knocker of my door–Neither loud nor soft,But as long accustomed,Under Sorrow’s hand?Marigolds around the stepAnd rosemary stand,And then comes Sorrow–And what does Sorrow careFor the rosemaryOr the marigolds there?Am I kin to Sorrow?Are we kin?That so oft upon my door–*Oh, come in*!
The first rose on my rose-treeBudded, bloomed, and shattered,During sad days when to meNothing mattered. Grief of grief has drained me clean;Still it seems a pityNo one saw,–it must have beenVery pretty.
Let the little birds sing;Let the little lambs play;Spring is here; and so ’tis spring;–But not in the old way! I recall a placeWhere a plum-tree grew;There you lifted up your face,And blossoms covered you. If the little birds sing,And the little lambs play,Spring is here; and so ’tis spring–But not in the old way!
O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!Thy mists, that roll and rise!Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sagAnd all but cry with colour! That gaunt cragTo crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!World, World, I cannot get thee close enough! Long have I known a […]
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 […]
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 asideThat won you to me, and beneath your gaze,Naked of reticence and shorn of pride,Spread like a chart my […]
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 byI shall forget you, as I said, but now,If you entreat me with your loveliest lieI will protest you with […]
All I could see from where I stoodWas three long mountains and a wood;I turned and looked another way,And saw three islands in a bay.So with my eyes I traced the lineOf the horizon, thin and fine,Straight around till I was comeBack to where I’d started from;And all I saw from where I stoodWas three […]
The room is full of you!–As I came inAnd closed the door behind me, all at onceA something in the air, intangible,Yet stiff with meaning, struck my senses sick!– Sharp, unfamiliar odors have destroyedEach other room’s dear personality.The heavy scent of damp, funereal flowers,–The very essence, hush-distilled, of Death–Has strangled that habitual breath of homeWhose […]
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!
Oh, I am grown so free from careSince my heart broke!I set my throat against the air,I laugh at simple folk! There’s little kind and little fairIs worth its weight in smokeTo me, that’s grown so free from careSince my heart broke! Lass, if to sleep you would repairAs peaceful as you woke,Best not besiege […]
Still must the poet as of old,In barren attic bleak and cold,Starve, freeze, and fashion verses toSuch things as flowers and song and you; Still as of old his being giveIn Beauty’s name, while she may live,Beauty that may not die as longAs there are flowers and you and song.
If he should lie a-dying I am not willing you should goInto the earth, where Helen went;She is awake by now, I know.Where Cleopatra’s anklets rustYou will not lie with my consent;And Sappho is a roving dust;Cressid could love again; Dido,Rotted in state, is restless still:You leave me much against my will.
Love, though for this you riddle me with darts,And drag me at your chariot till I die,–Oh, heavy prince! Oh, panderer of hearts!–Yet hear me tell how in their throats they lieWho shout you mighty: thick about my hairDay in, day out, your ominous arrows purrWho still am free, unto no querulous careA fool, and […]
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?
There was a road ran past our houseToo lovely to explore.I asked my mother once–she saidThat if you followed where it ledIt brought you to the milk-man’s door.(That’s why I have not traveled more.)
I had a little Sorrow,Born of a little Sin,I found a room all damp with gloomAnd shut us all within;And, “Little Sorrow, weep,” said I,“And, Little Sin, pray God to die,And I upon the floor will lieAnd think how bad I’ve been!” Alas for pious planning–It mattered not a whit!As far as gloom went in […]
Before she has her floor sweptOr her dishes done,Any day you’ll find herA-sunning in the sun! It’s long after midnightHer key’s in the lock,And you never see her chimney smokeTill past ten o’clock! She digs in her gardenWith a shovel and a spoon,She weeds her lazy lettuceBy the light of the moon, She walks up […]
Oh, Prue she has a patient man,And Joan a gentle lover,And Agatha’s Arth’ is a hug-the-hearth,–But my true love’s a rover! Mig, her man’s as good as cheeseAnd honest as a briar,Sue tells her love what he’s thinking of,–But my dear lad’s a liar! Oh, Sue and Prue and AgathaAre thick with Mig and Joan!They […]
What should I be but a prophet and a liar,Whose mother was a leprechaun, whose father was a friar?Teethed on a crucifix and cradled under water,What should I be but the fiend’s god-daughter? And who should be my playmates but the adder and the frog,That was got beneath a furze-bush and born in a bog?And […]
All right,Go ahead!What’s in a name?I guess I’ll be locked intoAs much as I’m locked out of!
We were very tired, we were very merry–We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable–But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon. We were […]
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 complainingIs more than I can see.I loved you Wednesday,–yes–but whatIs that to me?
How shall I know, unless I goTo Cairo and Cathay,Whether or not this blessed spotIs blest in every way? Now it may be, the flower for meIs this beneath my nose;How shall I tell, unless I smellThe Carthaginian rose? The fabric of my faithful loveNo power shall dim or ravelWhilst I stay here,–but oh, my […]
As I went walking up and down to take the evening air,(Sweet to meet upon the street, why must I be so shy?)I saw him lay his hand upon her torn black hair;(“Little dirty Latin child, let the lady by!”) The women squatting on the stoops were slovenly and fat,(Lay me out in organdie, lay […]
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!
When you, that at this moment are to meDearer than words on paper, shall depart,And be no more the warder of my heart,Whereof again myself shall hold the key;And be no more, what now you seem to be,The sun, from which all excellencies startIn a round nimbus, nor a broken dartOf moonlight, even, splintered on […]
I know I am but summer to your heart,And not the full four seasons of the year;And you must welcome from another partSuch noble moods as are not mine, my dear.No gracious weight of golden fruits to sellHave I, nor any wise and wintry thing;And I have loved you all too long and wellTo carry […]
What’s this of death, from you who never will die?Think you the wrist that fashioned you in clay,The thumb that set the hollow just that wayIn your full throat and lidded the long eyeSo roundly from the forehead, will let lieBroken, forgotten, under foot some dayYour unimpeachable body, and so slayThe work he most had […]
Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!Give back my book and take my kiss instead.Was it my enemy or my friend I heard?–“What a big book for such a little head!”Come, I will show you now my newest hat,And you may watch me purse my mouth and prink.Oh, I shall love you still […]
Say what you will, and scratch my heart to findThe roots of last year’s roses in my breast;I am as surely riper in my mindAs if the fruit stood in the stalls confessed.Laugh at the unshed leaf, say what you will,Call me in all things what I was before,A flutterer in the wind, a woman […]
Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare.Let all who prate of Beauty hold their peace,And lay them prone upon the earth and ceaseTo ponder on themselves, the while they stareAt nothing, intricately drawn nowhereIn shapes of shifting lineage; let geeseGabble and hiss, but heroes seek releaseFrom dusty bondage into luminous air. O blinding hour, O […]
Here is a wound that never will heal, I know,Being wrought not of a dearness and a deathBut of a love turned ashes and the breathGone out of beauty; never again will growThe grass on that scarred acre, though I sowYoung seed there yearly and the sky bequeathIts friendly weathers down, far underneathShall be such […]