Edna St. Vincent Millay

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

What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, And Where, And Why (Sonnet Xliii) - Poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay

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.

Comments about What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, And Where, And Why (Sonnet Xliii) by Edna St. Vincent Millay

  • Sandy (2/15/2020 6:56:00 PM)

    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 (9/18/2019 7:16:00 PM)

    Lovely and soft (Report)Reply

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  • Hunter (3/4/2019 7:08:00 PM)

    Amazing 👌 (Report)Reply

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  • Grace Athauye Sharra (11/30/2018 6:50:00 PM)

    Such courage to bare it all out in one anguished verse that disquiets even a century later... (Report)Reply

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  • Robert Murray SmithRobert Murray Smith (6/10/2018 4:13:00 PM)

    The last two lines are powerful. ++10 (Report)Reply

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  • Indira Rice (5/24/2018 5:58:00 AM)

    Beautiful. (Report)Reply

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  • Mohammed Asim Nehal (2/20/2016 4:25:00 AM)

    Lovely poem..................... (Report)Reply

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  • Alem Hailu G/kristosAlem Hailu G/kristos (10/2/2015 9:35:00 AM)

    It is bold and open! (Report)Reply

    5 person liked.
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  • * Sunprincess * (7/19/2015 3:03:00 PM)

    .....a lovely poem with a touch of poignancy...I feel she misses the days of her youth ★ (Report)Reply

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  • Rajesh Majumdar (9/14/2014 3:53:00 AM)

    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. (Report)Reply

    jim hogg(7/22/2019 3:40:00 AM)

    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.

    Joseph(11/8/2017 9:49:00 PM)

    Actually, the poem as written here is incorrect. The line is This in the winter stands the lonely tree, They forgot the the duh

    Greg BellGreg Bell(8/17/2017 11:05:00 PM)

    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...)

    Eric Ericson(11/20/2014 2:57:00 AM)

    I believe it is the pause at the end of the line that makes nine syllables act like ten

    Rajesh Majumdar(9/15/2014 3:02:00 AM)

    typo indestand =] understand

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  • Colleen Courtney (5/17/2014 4:12:00 PM)

    One of my absolute favorites as it recalls to mind my own many lovers of my past. A poem only a woman could write so perfectly and be so greatly understood by women everywhere. Truly one of the poets fines writes! (Report)Reply

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  • Kathleen Burns (11/27/2013 7:55:00 PM)

    This is a poem I myself remember when I look back on my lovers (Report)Reply

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  • Digby Martin (8/5/2007 1:59:00 PM)

    Beautiful, with a wonderful choice of words. (Report)Reply

    16 person liked.
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  • Marcia Morris (7/10/2007 12:48:00 AM)

    This poet shows great imagery in her writing....such emotions penned here. Love this piece (Report)Reply

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  • Jasmine Longoria (12/20/2006 1:35:00 AM)

    You can feel the desolation in the words especially those few last lines
    Such emptyness
    It's quite lovely and sad at the same time

    11 person liked.
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  • David Hickey (2/2/2006 8:41:00 PM)

    definately one of the best poems i have ever read....stunning and so well written.
    magical and moving to say the least. i cant get over it and is still relevant to todays sexually free society. BRILLIANT

    10 person liked.
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  • Marcella Gilligan (11/8/2005 1:13:00 PM)

    I loved this poem it evoked very powerful memories for me. I particularly enjoyed the way the poet used the analogy with the birds visiting the trees. I felt the poem was written from a womans view point and that I loved. (Report)Reply

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  • Faith Elizabeth Brigham (10/8/2005 7:39:00 PM)

    a true masterpiece and one of the greatest poems i have ever read (Report)Reply

    9 person liked.
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  • Ebony Nelson (8/3/2005 1:19:00 PM)

    i don't get it wat is the point of this poem supposely no affence (Report)Reply

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Read poems about / on: lonely, winter, summer, tree, rain, pain, heart, sonnet, kiss

Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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