Edna St. Vincent Millay

Rockland / Maine / United States
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Rockland / Maine / United States
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What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, And Where, And Why (Sonnet Xliii)

Rating: 4.0
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:
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Sandy 15 February 2020
Does anybody know the year this poem was written? Or in which book of poems it appears? Thank you.
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Robert salazar 18 September 2019
Lovely and soft
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Hunter 04 March 2019
Amazing ??
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Grace Athauye Sharra 30 November 2018
Such courage to bare it all out in one anguished verse that disquiets even a century later...
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Robert Murray Smith 10 June 2018
The last two lines are powerful. ++10
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Indira Rice 24 May 2018
1 0 Reply
M Asim Nehal 20 February 2016
Lovely poem.....................
9 1 Reply
Alem Hailu G/kristos 02 October 2015
It is bold and open!
5 1 Reply
* Sunprincess * 19 July 2015
.....a lovely poem with a touch of poignancy...I feel she misses the days of her youth ?
8 1 Reply
Rajesh Majumdar 14 September 2014
The line Thus in winter..... seems to be a syllable short (9) . It doesn't seem to affect the reading and I cannot indestand why. All the other lines have 10 syllables.
11 3 Reply
Greg Bell 17 August 2017
Rajesh Majumdar - the standard meter for an English sonnet is iambic pentameter, meaning 5 'feet' or metric units of 2 syllables each, accounting for 10 syllables. You'll observe that the first 8 lines flow swiftly, as if all those lovers were tumbling over one another and flowing into a gush of ecstatic memory. Right around the 9th line is where you expect a 'volta' or 'turn' from what went before, and boy does Millay deliver! She brings the poem to a screeching halt with that single syllable of 'Thus.' She most certainly could have added an extraneous syllable, but she chose not to do that, as if she deliberately chose to stop that river of lovers with the stark image of a lone tree. Clearly, then, the poem is meant to be read with a STOP after 'Thus', a rhythmic break to achieve a new, spare effect. That's mastery: learning the rules so that we can break them for effect. (This, of course, precludes consideration of the so-called 'modern sonnet', with no rhythmic (metric) or musical (rhyme) guidelines but of the poet's own device...)
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Joseph 08 November 2017
Actually, the poem as written here is incorrect. The line is This in the winter stands the lonely tree, They forgot the the duh
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jim hogg 22 July 2019
Slight typo in Joseph's correction: It should read: " Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree, " . So, ESVM doesn't change the rhythm on this line. Colleen, below, suggests that it's very much a woman's poem. But imv the story ESVM is telling is universal and applies equally to both sexes as we age and the vitality and interactions of life subside and desert us. It resonates very strongly with me and parallels my experience very closely.
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