Poetry Friday: 1921

A poet I have always enjoyed, Edna St. Vincent Millay, published a collection of poetry entitled Second April in 1921—none of them poems of hers I am familiar with.  So I offer for your consideration and comment a poem from that collection, entitled


White with daisies and red with sorrel
And empty, empty under the sky !
Life is a quest and love a quarrel
Here is a place for me to lie.

Daisies spring from damnèd seeds,
And this red fire that here I see
Is a worthless crop of crimson weeds,
Cursed by farmers thriftily.

But here, unhated for an hour,
The sorrel runs in ragged flame,
The daisy stands, a bastard flower,
Like flowers that bear an honest name.

And here a while, where no wind brings
The baying of a pack athirst,
May sleep the sleep of blessèd things
The blood too bright, the brow accurst.


5 comments on “Poetry Friday: 1921

  1. Bonnie Hood says:

    I love Milay too. She uses a rhyme that carries you through so beautifully and easily that you have to look carefully to find the deeper, and usually darker, meaning.

    My favorite of hers is “my candle burns at both ends/ it will not last the night/ but ah my foes and oh my friends/ it gives such a lovely light!”

    Which really is how she lived.

    • jwrosenzweig says:

      A list of my favorite Millay poems would run a while (I want to quote them here, but I’m hoping to have at least one more for a Poetry Friday). She is so different from Sandburg–so very structured, bordering at times on sing-song in the regular rhythm and rhyme of her verse. But she says such piercing things sometimes. The phrases you quote are a side of her I like, but I think I like some of her bitter poetry even better, and on the rare occasions when she gets political, I may like that best of all.

      This poem throws me a bit, though. On the face of it, it’s a very simple scene. She’s contemplating so-called weeds which, in their brief beauty, she enjoys. But the last stanza is puzzling to me–is the reference to the pack significant at all, or just a little scenery from the actual field she was standing in? And what does she mean by “the blood too bright, the brow accurst”? I feel really adrift there.

  2. Bonnie Hood says:

    hmmmmm. Now that I’m looking at it, I’m confused to. A baying pack reminds me of bloodhounds, so I’m thinking of a fox resting for awhile, but that doesn’t fit well. Maybe a baying pack could be gossiping people?

    This is what I mean. It seems simple and lighthearted but then you realize some darker things are going on!

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