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Sonnets of Edna St. Vincent Millay

Renascence

I

Thou art not lovelier than lilacs, — no,

Nor honeysuckle; thou art not more fair

Than small white single poppies, — I can bear

Thy beauty; though I bend before thee, though

From left to right, not knowing where to go,

I turn my troubled eyes, nor here nor there

Find any refuge from thee, yet I swear

So has it been with mist, — with moonlight so.

Like him who day by day unto his draught

Of delicate poison adds him one drop more

Till he may drink unharmed the death of ten,

Even so, inured to beauty, who have quaffed

Each hour more deeply than the hour before,

I drink — and live — what has destroyed some men.

 

II

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied

Who told me time would ease me of my pain!

I miss him in the weeping of the rain;

I want him at the shrinking of the tide;

The old snows melt from every mountain-side,

And last year's leaves are smoke in every lane;

But last year's bitter loving must remain

Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.

There are a hundred places where I fear

To go, — so with his memory they brim.

And entering with relief some quiet place

Where never fell his foot or shone his face

I say, "There is no memory of him here!"

And so stand stricken, so remembering him.

 

III

Mindful of you the sodden earth in spring,

And all the flowers that in the springtime grow;

And dusty roads, and thistles, and the slow

Rising of the round moon; all throats that sing

The summer through, and each departing wing,

And all the nests that the bared branches show;

And all winds that in any weather blow,

And all the storms that the four seasons bring.

You go no more on your exultant feet

Up paths that only mist and morning knew;

Or watch the wind or listen to the beat

Of a bird's wing to high in air to view, —

But you were something more than young and sweet

And fair, — and the long year remembers you.

 

IV

Not in this chamber only at my birth —

When the long hours of that mysterious night

Were over, and the morning was in sight —

I cried, but in strange places, steppe and firth

I have not seen, through alien grief and mirth;

And never shall one room contain me quite

Who in so many rooms first saw the light,

Child of all mothers, native of the earth.

So is no warmth for me at any fire

Today, when the world's fire has burned so low;

I kneel, spending my breath in vain desire,

At the cold hearth which one time roared so strong:

And straighten back in weariness, and long

To gather up my little gods and go.

 

V

If I should learn in some quite causal way,

That you were gone, not to return again —

Read from the back-page of a paper, say,

Held by a neighbor in a subway train,

How at the corner of this avenue

And such a street (so are the papers filled)

A hurrying man, who happened to be you,

At noon today had happened to be killed,

I should not cry aloud — I could not cry

Aloud, or wring my hands in such a place —

I should but watch the station lights rush by

With a more careful interest on my face;

Or raise my eyes and read with greater care

Where to store furs and how to treat the hair.

 

Bluebeard

This door you might not open, and you did;

So enter now, and see for what slight thing

You are betrayed . . . . Here is no treasure hid,

No cauldron, no clear crystal mirroring

The sought-for Truth, no heads of women slain

For greed like yours, no writhings of distress;

But only what you see . . . . Look yet again:

An empty room, cobwebbed and comfortless.

Yet this alone out of my life I kept

Unto myself, lest any know me quite;

And you did so profane me when you crept

Unto the threshold of this room tonight

That I must never more behold your face.

This now is yours. I seek another place.

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