Millay, of a late evening

April 19, 2010

Presenting some pretty little bits collected from a dual reading of The Buck in the Snow and Other Poems (New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1928) and Make Bright the Arrows: A 1940 Notebook (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1941).


[The Buck in the Snow]:

“Being Young and Green” [22].

Being young and green, I said in love’s despite:
Never in the world will I to living wight
Give over, air my mind
To anyone,
Hang out its ancient secrets in the strong wind
To be shredded and faded…

Oh, me, invaded
And sacked by the wind and the sun!



From “Dawn”, ll. 18-25 [39-40].

Should I return to your door,
Fresh and haggard out of the morning air,
There would be darkness on the stair,
And a dead close odor painfully sad,
That was not there before.
There would be silence. There would be heavy steps across the floor.
And you would let me in, frowning with sleep
Under your rumpled hair.



From “Moriturus”, ll. 37-40 [3].

Death, however,
Is a spongy wall,
Is a sticky river,
Is nothing at all.



From “Dirge without Music”, ll. 13-16 [44].

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.



From “To a Musician”, ll. 9-12 [59].

Together with the sharp discomfort of loving you,
Ineffable you, so lovely and so aloof,
There is laid upon the spirit the calmness of the river view:
Together they fall, the pain and its reproof.



From an unnamed sonnet beginning “Not that it matters, not that my heart’s cry…”, ll. 9-10 [68].

This is my testament: that we are taken;
Our colours are as clouds before the wind;



[Make Bright the Arrows]:

From “I Dreamt the Lowlands”, ll.1-3 [9] (there is such extraordinary music in this one, listen:)

I dreamt the lowlands still were free.
That the big wind-mill and the pollard willow, the knot-willow tree,
Beside the still canal, that the knot-willow still was free.



From an unnamed sonnet beginning “How innocent of me and my dark pain…”, ll. 1-8 [65].

How innocent of me and my dark pain
In the clear east, unclouded save for one
Flamingo-coloured feather, combed and spun
Into fine spirals, with ephemeral stain
To dye the morning rose after the rain,
Rises the simple and majestic sun,
His azure course, well-known and often-run
With patient brightness to pursue again.

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