Edna St. Vincent Millay: Selected Poems


Praised by poets and critics ranging from A. E. Housman and Thomas Hardy to Edmund Wilson, Edna St. Vincent Millay's bold, exquisite poems take their place among the enduring verse of the twentieth century. Claiming a lyric tradition stretching back to Sappho and Catullus and making it very much her own, Millay won over her contemporaries—and readers ever since—with her passion, erotic candor, formal elegance, and often mischievous wit. J. D. McClatchy's introduction and selections offer new and surprising ...

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Edna St. Vincent Millay: Selected Poems

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Praised by poets and critics ranging from A. E. Housman and Thomas Hardy to Edmund Wilson, Edna St. Vincent Millay's bold, exquisite poems take their place among the enduring verse of the twentieth century. Claiming a lyric tradition stretching back to Sappho and Catullus and making it very much her own, Millay won over her contemporaries—and readers ever since—with her passion, erotic candor, formal elegance, and often mischievous wit. J. D. McClatchy's introduction and selections offer new and surprising insights into Millay's achievement. Included are her most beloved and justly admired poems, such as the wry bohemian anthem "Recuerdo" and the sonnet sequence Fatal Interview, the poetic record of a love affair that is presented in its entirety. McClatchy has also chosen works that extend our sense of Millay's range: translations, her play Aria da Capo, and excerpts from her libretto The King's Henchman. "I have for the most part been guided by my taste for Millay at her tautest and truest," writes McClatchy. "There are precise and resonant images everywhere."

To coincide with the publication of the long-awaited Nancy Milford biography and in celebration of the centenary of the birth of Edna St. Vincent Millay, here is a carefully chosen selection of the poet's finest works. Millau will be cherished for years to come through this magnificent anthology.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
These inaugural volumes in "The American Poets Project" series form a useful introduction to the evolution of modern American poetry in loose historical progression. The volume on Whitman, father of modern American poetry, restores the voice of a poet who initiated free verse to speak of a growing America and thus takes us into the 20th century and beyond. Fortunately, editor Bloom ignores all of the psycho-social-sexual labels doled out to Whitman and lauds him simply as "the principal writer that America...has brought to us." Selections include some of Whitman's best, e.g., "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" and the spiritual bridge between Whitman and his future readers, "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry." Millay, one of America's strongest female poets, is similar in her metrics to 19th-century poets, but her flamelike intensity is pure 20th century. When she died in 1950, her poetry almost died with her; not until after the women's rights movements did her once acclaimed verse resurface. Editor McClatchy provides a generous sample of her poetry, highlighting her early years ("Renascence," "A Few Figs from Thistles"), the lesser-known poems never before published, and the posthumously published "Mine the Harvest." World War II sliced the 20th century in half and forever changed the American way of life as idealism and self-reliance ceded to franchising and instant gratification. The poets appearing in the World War II anthology-compiled by Harvey Shapiro, himself a poet of the war-portend this major mind shift by their tone, which questions rather than sanctions patriotism, valor, and the values of the 1940s. Arranged by the poets' birth dates, the poems include Robinson Jeffers's cynical nod to violence as a natural cause of earth events; Randall Jarrell's graphic depictions of airborne death; and John Ciardi's whimsical renditions of horror. Lastly, Karl Shapiro, one of the more influential voices of the late 20th century, displayed complex and contrary tendencies in both his life and his poetry. Editor Updike notes that Shapiro's experimentation with voices and forms alienated those who admired the metrical dexterity of his early poems. This commanding new series, which the Library of America will expand each spring and fall season by adding two or three titles, is a worthy addition to all libraries.-Nedra Crowe Evers, Sacramento P.L., CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781931082358
  • Publisher: Library of America
  • Publication date: 7/28/2002
  • Series: American Poets Project
  • Pages: 231
  • Sales rank: 1,300,718
  • Product dimensions: 4.80 (w) x 7.85 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Edna St. Vincent Millay was born in 1892 in Rockland, Maine, and grew up in the seaside town of Camden. She published her first poems as a teenager and, at twenty, her long poem “Renascence” appeared in the anthology The Lyric Year. At Vassar, she developed her talents and reputation as a dramatist and actor. After graduating in 1917, Millay moved to Greenwich Village in New York City where she gave poetry readings and became known for her freedom of thought and feminist views. She acted and wrote for the Provincetown Players theater group and in 1919 directed a production of her play Aria da Capo. Her poetry was published in several magazines, including Vanity Fair, Poetry, and Forum. Her first book, Renascence and Other Poems (1917), was followed in 1920 by A Few Figs from Thistles (an expanded edition appeared in 1922) and in 1921 by Second April.

In 1923, upon her return from two years of writing and traveling in Europe, Millay received the second annual Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and published a new collection, The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems. That same year she married Eugen Boissevain, and in 1925 they moved to a farm in upstate New York. Millay published five more collections of poetry: The Buck in the Snow (1928), Fatal Interview (1931), Wine from These Grapes (1934), Huntsman, What Quarry? (1939), Make Bright the Arrows (1940); a prose collection under her pen name, Nancy Boyd, titled Distressing Dialogues (1924; its foreword carried Millay’s byline); a translation, with George Dillon, of Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil (1936); the verse dramas Conversation at Midnight (1937) and The Murder of Lidice (1942); and several plays. Her final book was the posthumously published Mine the Harvest (1954), edited by her younger sister Norma. Edna St. Vincent Millay died in 1950.

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Table of Contents

Renascence 3
Interim 10
Afternoon on a Hill 18
Witch-Wife 18
When the Year Grows Old 19
"Time does not bring relief; you all have lied" 20
"If I should learn, in some quite casual way" 21
Bluebeard 22
First Fig 23
Second Fig 23
Recuerdo 23
To the Not Impossible Him 24
Grown-up 25
Daphne 25
Midnight Oil 25
The Philosopher 26
"I think I should have loved you presently" 26
"I shall forget you presently, my dear" 27
Eel-Grass 28
Elegy Before Death 28
Weeds 29
Passer Mortuus Est 30
Alms 30
Inland 31
Ebb 32
from Memorial to D. C.: I. Epitaph 33
from Memorial to D. C.: IV. Dirge 33
from Memorial to D. C.: V. Elegy 34
"Only until this cigarette is ended" 35
"Once more into my arid days like dew" 36
"When I too long have looked upon your face" 36
"And you as well must die, beloved dust" 37
"As to some lovely temple, tenantless" 38
Wild Swans 38
Autumn Chant 39
Feast 40
The Betrothal 40
The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver 41
Never May the Fruit Be Plucked 46
Hyacinth 47
To One Who Might Have Borne a Message 47
"Love is not blind. I see with single eye" 48
"Pity me not because the light of day" 48
"Here is a wound that never will heal, I know" 49
"Your face is like a chamber where a king" 50
"I, being born a woman and distressed" 50
"What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why" 51
"How healthily their feet upon the floor" 51
"Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare" 52
Sonnets from an Ungrafted Tree 53
To the Wife of a Sick Friend 63
To a Friend Estranged from Me 64
The Buck in the Snow 65
Evening on Lesbos 65
Dirge Without Music 66
Lethe 67
To Inez Milholland 68
To Jesus on His Birthday 68
"Not that it matters, not that my heart's cry" 69
Aria da Capo (1927) 73
AElfrida's Song 97
Love Scene 99
The Fang 105
Parisian Dream 106
Invitation to the Voyage 108
The Old Servant 110
Late January 111
The King of the Rainy Country 111
Mists and Rains 112
A Memory 113
Fatal Interview (1931) 117
Valentine 147
In the Grave No Flower 147
Childhood Is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies 148
The Solid Sprite Who Stands Alone 150
Spring in the Garden 151
Sonnet ("Time, that renews the tissues of this frame") 152
Desolation Dreamed Of 152
On the Wide Heath 153
Two Sonnets in Memory 154
Conscientious Objector 155
Epitaph for the Race of Man 156
"Thus are our altars polluted; nor may we flee ..." 166
"The mind thrust out of doors" 172
The Snow Storm 174
Not So Far as the Forest 174
"Fontaine, Je Ne Boirai Pas De Ton Eau!" 177
The True Encounter 178
Czecho-Slovakia 178
Underground System 179
Two Voices 180
This Dusky Faith 181
To a Young Poet 182
To Elinor Wylie 182
"Now that the west is washed of clouds and clear" 186
"I too beneath your moon, almighty Sex" 187
"Thou famished grave, I will not fill thee yet" 187
"Not only love plus awful grief" 188
"Make bright the arrows" 189
An Eclipse of the Sun Is Predicted 189
"Gentlemen Cry, Peace!" 190
"I must not die of pity; I must live" 191
"They marched them out to the public square" 192
Small Hands, Relinquish All 195
Ragged Island 196
"To whom the house of Montagu" 197
"The courage that my mother had" 199
Armenonville 199
Dream of Saba 200
For Warmth Alone, for Shelter Only 204
"Black hair you'd say she had, or rather" 204
Steepletop 206
"Look how the bittersweet with lazy muscle move aside" 207
"Those hours when happy hours were my estate" 209
"Not to me, less lavish - though my dreams have been splendid" 209
"Tranquility at length, when autumn comes" 210
Sonnet in Dialectic 210
"It is the fashion now to wave aside" 211
"Admetus, from my marrow's core I do" 212
"I will put Chaos into fourteen lines" 212
"And must I then, indeed, Pain, live with you" 213
"Felicity of Grief! - even Death being kind" 213
"If I die solvent - die, that is to say" 214
Biographical Note 217
Note on the Texts 218
Notes 220
Index of Titles and First Lines 223
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