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MILLAY, Edna St. Vincent



Afternoon on a Hill

I will be the gladdest thing

Under the sun!

I will touch a hundred flowers

And not pick one.

I will look at cliffs and clouds

With quiet eyes,

Watch the wind bow down the grass,

And the grass rise.

And when lights begin to show

Up from the town,

I will mark which must be mine,

And then start down!


Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,


Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,

Rains from the sky a meteoric shower

Of facts . . . they lie unquestioned, uncombined.

Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill

Is daily spun; but there exists no loom

To weave it into fabric.


Love is not blind...

Love is not blind. I see with single eye

Your ugliness and other women's grace.

I know the imperfection of your face,

The eyes too wide apart, the brow too high

For beauty. Learned from earliest youth am I

In loveliness, and cannot so erase

Its letters from my mind, that I may trace

You faultless, I must love until I die.

More subtle is the sovereignty of love:

So am I caught that when I say, "Not fair,"

'Tis but as if I said, "Not here--not there

Not risen--not writing letters." Well I know

What is this beauty men are babbling of;

I wonder only why they prize it so.


I think I should have loved you presently (Sonnet IX)

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 aside

That won you to me, and beneath your gaze,

Naked of reticence and shorn of pride,

Spread like a chart my little wicked ways.

I, that had been to you, had you remained,

But one more waking from a recurrent dream,

Cherish no less the certain stakes I gained,

And walk your memory’s halls, austere, supreme,

A ghost in marble of a girl you knew

Who would have loved you in a day or two.


Love Is Not All (Sonnet XXX)


Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink

Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;

Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink

And rise and sink and rise and sink again;

Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,

Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;

Yet many a man is making friends with death

Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.

It well may be that in a difficult hour,

Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,

Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,

I might be driven to sell your love for peace,

Or trade the memory of this night for food.

It well may be. I do not think I would.


Time Does Not Bring Relief

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who 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 remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go, -- so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his boot or shone his face
I say, "There is no memory of him here!"
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.


Renascence
…..
ALL I could see from where I stood

Was three long mountains and a wood;

I turned and looked the other way,

And saw three islands in a bay.

So with my eyes I traced the line

Of the horizon, thin and fine,

Straight around till I was come

Back to where I’d started from;

And all I saw from where I stood

Was three long mountains and a wood.

Over these things I could not see:

These were the things that bounded me;

And I could touch them with my hand,

Almost, I thought, from where I stand.

And all at once things seemed so small

My breath came short, and scarce at all.

But, sure, the sky is big, I said;

Miles and miles above my head;

So here upon my back I’ll lie

And look my fill into the sky.

And so I looked, and, after all,

The sky was not so very tall.

The sky, I said, must somewhere stop,

And—sure enough!—I see the top!

The sky, I thought, is not so grand;

I ’most could touch it with my hand!

And reaching up my hand to try,

I screamed to feel it touch the sky.

I screamed, and—lo!—Infinity

Came down and settled over me;
…..
Deep in the earth I rested now;

Cool is its hand upon the brow

And soft its breast beneath the head

Of one who is so gladly dead.

And all at once, and over all

The pitying rain began to fall;

I lay and heard each pattering hoof

Upon my lowly, thatchèd roof,

And seemed to love the sound far more

Than ever I had done before.

For rain it hath a friendly sound

To one who’s six feet under ground;

And scarce the friendly voice or face:

A grave is such a quiet place.
…..
The world stands out on either side

No wider than the heart is wide;

Above the world is stretched the sky,—

No higher than the soul is high.

The heart can push the sea and land

Farther away on either hand;

The soul can split the sky in two,

And let the face of God shine through.

But East and West will pinch the heart

That can not keep them pushed apart;

And he whose soul is flat—the sky

Will cave in on him by and by.

…..


What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why


What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,

I have forgotten, and what arms have lain

Under my head till morning; but the rain

Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh

Upon the glass and listen for reply,

And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain

For unremembered lads that not again

Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.

Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,

Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,

Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:

I cannot say what loves have come and gone,

I only know that summer sang in me

A little while, that in me sings no more.


Journey

Ah, could I lay me down in this long grass

And close my eyes, and let the quiet wind

Blow over me—I am so tired, so tired

Of 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 hand

Tugged ever, and I passed. All my life long

Over my shoulder have I looked at peace;

And now I fain would lie in this long grass

And close my eyes.

Yet onward!

Cat birds call

Through the long afternoon, and creeks at dusk

Are guttural. Whip-poor-wills wake and cry,

Drawing the twilight close about their throats.

Only my heart makes answer. Eager vines

Go up the rocks and wait; flushed apple-trees

Pause in their dance and break the ring for me;

Dim, shady wood-roads, redolent of fern

And bayberry, that through sweet bevies thread

Of round-faced roses, pink and petulant,

Look back and beckon ere they disappear.

Only my heart, only my heart responds.

Yet, ah, my path is sweet on either side

All through the dragging day,—sharp underfoot

And hot, and like dead mist the dry dust hangs—

But far, oh, far as passionate eye can reach,

And long, ah, long as rapturous eye can cling,

The world is mine: blue hill, still silver lake,

Broad field, bright flower, and the long white road

A gateless garden, and an open path:

My feet to follow, and my heart to hold.