The Mnemosyne Weekly: Poem Thirty-Five (Millay)

Oil on Canvas, 1877

This week’s poem, “First Fig,” by the ever clever Edna St. Vincent Millay, is quite different from the other short poems I’ve memorized in that the others have had a zen sort of quiet, and a modest, internal spaciousness, whereas Millay’s feels packed to bursting with wit. You may have noticed that my aesthetic leans in two very distinct lyrical directions–the short, quiet meditation that I just mentioned, and the dense, image-rich metaphorical poem. Millay’s, obviously, is neither. Nor do I currently subscribe to the sentiment in Millay’s poem. But with each posting I make, I learn. And there are a couple of things I want to learn from Millay this week–the brevity of cleverness built into the very sounds of words, and such perfect marriage between content and form–

Edna St. Vincent Millay
photo by Arnold Genthe

First Fig

by Edna St. Vincent MillayMy candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light.Original Post:

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