Edna St. Vincent Millay

(22 February 1892 – 19 October 1950 / Rockland / Maine / United States)

Spring - Poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay

To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

Comments about Spring by Edna St. Vincent Millay

  • Moira Cameron (4/3/2016 11:53:00 PM)

    I like Barry Middleton's comment below. There is a lot to this poem, and its meaning will likely change the more one reads it. I felt that perhaps she mean one shouldn't take things like the month of April in isolation. April is worth nothing as a month if it isn't part of the cycle of life and death, growth and decay. The last couple of lines - It is not enough that yearly...April comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers - could be suggesting that if one only looks at the flowers, i.e. the SURFACE of what April represents, then one is missing its larger and deeper purpose as part of something greater. (Report) Reply

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  • Susan Williams (4/3/2016 6:34:00 PM)

    I like this. She is looking under the buds and seeing something real but dark. She isn't in the mood to rhapsodize about tripping gaily through fields of wildflowers whilst birds sing merry tunes. She sees the flip side and it is there and she challenges it. Faith, or any other life philosophy, would be shallow if it did not recognize death, destruction, decay and deal with them. (Report) Reply

  • (4/3/2016 11:56:00 AM)

    She says...It is apparent there is no death. All the more reason to enjoy spring with its fresh flowers and fragrant air. (Report) Reply

  • Anil Kumar Panda (4/3/2016 11:34:00 AM)

    It is a month of fresh flowers and nice weather. But sadly you cant see it. Nice write though. (Report) Reply

  • (4/3/2016 7:50:00 AM)

    The most negative poem about spring I have ever read. I was shocked that this was actually written by Edna St. Vincent Millay. She says life is nothing. Life is a gift from God, and April with its flowers and other plant life is a reaffirmation of that gift. (Report) Reply

    Barry Middleton Barry Middleton (4/3/2016 12:35:00 PM)

    Reading a second time, I see a different message. She does not say life is nothing, she says life in itself is nothing. I believe she is saying the worth of life depends on what you do with it. She says just beauty is not enough even though it is apparent there is no death. but she goes on to say life is an empty cup - so it must be filled. That it is a flight of un-carpeted stairs - it goes upward but needs more, a carpet in this case. Read this way she is saying there must be more. Death is not death but Not only under ground are the brains of men Eaten by maggots. She is cautioning us not to let our brains be eaten, fill the cup, carpet the staircase, live live to its fullest. That sounds more ESVM doesn't it?

  • (4/3/2016 6:37:00 AM)

    ......the pleasures of spring is one of the greatest joys of life ★ (Report) Reply

  • Barry Middleton (4/3/2016 5:46:00 AM)

    Nature returns but the life of men ends with being eaten by maggots. Not a pretty picture but true. So all the babble about April and flowers seems rather foolish to the poet. Life is good while it lasts but it doesn't last. (Report) Reply

  • Edward Kofi Louis (4/3/2016 1:10:00 AM)

    Life ib irswlf! And to respect nature. Thanks for sharing. (Report) Reply

  • Geoffrey Fafard (4/7/2015 7:40:00 AM)

    Stunning, deep and provoking poetry …I will never look at April in the same light again! (Report) Reply

  • (5/17/2014 2:08:00 PM)

    I sense a feeling of anger coming through this piece. Anyone else? (Report) Reply

    Barry Middleton Barry Middleton (4/3/2016 5:48:00 AM)

    Yes, lots of anger. She is saying life cheats us in a way that it does not cheat nature. So the babble about spring and April has no meaning.

  • (4/27/2008 1:51:00 PM)

    This one of the greatest poems I have ever read. It poses all the fundamental questions about life in a nutshell. Very Clever! ! (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: april, beauty, death, sun, spring, life, flower

Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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