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Sonnets of Edna St. Vincent Millay

From Fatal Interview


Even in the moment of our earliest kiss,

When sighed the straitened bud into the flower,

Sat the dry seed of most unwelcome this;

And that I knew, though not the day and hour.

Too season-wise am I, being country-bred,

To tilt at autumn or defy the frost:

Snuffing the chill even as my fathers did,

I say with them, "What's out tonight is lost."

I only hoped, with the mild hope of all

Who watch the leaf take shape upon the tree,

A fairer summer and a later fall

Than in these parts a man is apt to see,

And sunny clusters ripened for the wine:

I tell you this across the blackened vine.



Well, I have lost you; and I lost you fairly;

In my own way, and with my full consent.

Say what you will, kings in a tumbrel rarely

Went to their deaths more proud than this one went.

Some nights of apprehension and hot weeping

I will confess; but that's permitted me;

Day dried my eyes; I was not one for keeping

Rubbed in a cage a wing that would be free.

If I had loved you less or played you slyly

I might have held you for a summer more,

But at the cost of words I value highly,

And no such summer as the one before.

Should I outlive this anguish — and men do —

I shall have only good to say of you.



Now by the path I climbed, I journey back.

The oaks have grown; I have been long away.

Taking with me your memory and your lack

I now descend into a milder day;

Stripped of your love, unburdened of my hope,

Descend the path I mounted from the plain;

Yet steeper than I fancied seems the slope

And stonier, now that I go down again.

Warm falls the dusk; the clanking of a bell

Faintly ascends upon this heavier air;

I do recall those grassy pastures well:

In early spring they drove the cattle there.

And close at hand should be a shelter, too,

From which the mountain peaks are not in view.



There is a well into whose bottomless eye,

Though I were flayed, I dare not lean and look,

Sweet once with mountain water, now gone dry,

Miraculously abandoned by the brook

Wherewith for years miraculously fed

It kept a constant level cold and bright,

Though summer parched the rivers in their bed;

Withdrawn these waters, vanished overnight.

There is a word I dare not speak again,

A face I never again must call to mind;

I was not craven ever nor blenched at pain,

But pain to such degree and of such kind

As I must suffer if I think of you,

Not in my senses will I undergo.



The heart once broken is a heart no more,

And is absolved from all a heart must be;

All that it signed or chartered heretofore

Is cancelled now, the bankrupt heart is free;

So much of duty as you may require

Of shards and dust, this and no more of pain,

This and no more of hope, remorse, desire,

The heart once broken need support again.

How simple 'tis, and what a little sound

It makes in breaking, let the world attest:

It struggles, and it fails; the world goes round,

And the moon follows it. Heart in my breast,

'Tis half a year now since you broke in two;

The world's forgotten well; if the world knew.



If in the years to come you should recall,

When faint in heart or fallen on hungry days,

Or full of griefs and little if at all

From them distracted by delights or praise;

When failing powers or good opinion lost

Have bowed your neck, should you recall to mind

How of all men I honoured you the most,

Holding your noblest among mortal-kind:

Might not my love — although the curving blade

From whose wide mowing none may hope to hide,

Me long ago below the frosts had laid —

Restore you somewhat to your former pride?

Indeed I think this memory, even then,

Must raise you high among the run of men.



Oh, sleep forever in the Latmian cave,

Mortal Endymion, darling of the Moon!

Her silver garments by the senseless wave

Shouldered and dropped and on the shingle strewn,

Her fluttering hand against her forehead pressed,

Her scattered looks that troubled all the sky,

Her rapid footsteps running down the west —

Of all her altered state, oblivious lie!

Whom earthen you, by deathless lips adored,

Wild-eyed and stammering to the grasses thrust,

And deep into her crystal body poured

The hot and sorrowful sweetness of the dust:

Whereof she wanders mad, being all unfit

For mortal love, that might not die of it.

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