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Personal Choice 29

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Sonnet viii

Say what you will, and scratch my heart to find

The roots of last year’s roses in my breast;

I am as surely riper in my mind

As 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 still;

I tell you I am what I was and more.

My branches weigh me down, frost cleans the air,

My sky is black with small birds bearing south;

Say what you will, confuse me with fine care,

Put by my word as but an April truth—

Autumn is no less on me, that a rose

Hugs the brown bough and sighs before it goes.

Sonnet xxix

Pity me not because the light of day

At close of day no longer walks the sky;

Pity me not for beauties passed away

From field and thicket as the year goes by;

Pity me not the waning of the moon,

Nor that the ebbing tide goes out to sea,

Nor that a man’s desire is hushed so soon,

And you no longer look with love on me.

This have I known always: Love is no more

Than the wide blossom which the wind assails,

Than the great tide that treads the shifting shore,

Strewing fresh wreckage gathered in the gales:

Pity me that the heart is slow to learn

What the swift mind beholds at every turn.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 - 1950) was an American lyrical poet and playwright. She gained fame with a Pulitzer Prize in 1923 and was also a renowned social figure and noted feminist in New York City during the Roaring Twenties and beyond. A road accident in 1936 left her a partial invalid. She became both morphine and alcohol-dependent and died 14 years later in Austerlitz, N.Y., at her home called Steepletop.

I came under the spell of Edna St. Vincent Millay in the late 70s when my own writing was still in formation and on a search for my own ‘voice’. I was amazed, captivated and enthralled by her poetry and it immediately spoke urgently to me of my own.

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