Edna St. Vincent Millay is another of my favorite poets. I was introduced to her only seven years ago, when my husband briefly studied her in college. I was so impressed with the small selection that I read that I went out and purchased her biography, Savage Beauty by Nancy Milford. I have had some trouble getting through biographies in the past, and I've found that those written about poets hold my attention best.
Millay has written sonnets, ballads, plays, propaganda, and much more. Her first great success was Renascence, a poem about the omnipresence of God. Each time I read this, I just feel bigger, more expansive than my physical self. She finished this poem in 1912; she was 20 years old.
Still, she is perhaps better known for some of her other work. Many people have heard this short quatrain before; The First Fig:
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!
She felt the impermanence of life, and took a glib attitude towards love. Here is her poem, Thursday:
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?
Still, she was a woman of great feeling and passion. Her poems in her later life were not all so flippant. The Ballad of the Harp Weaver, dedicated to her mother, is sentimental in the best of ways. She was a progressive, she fought for women's rights and justice for those who she felt wrongly persecuted. She was a fascinating woman living in a fascinating time.