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OTD: Edna St Vincent Millay

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

Today, let's celebrate the life of the American poet, Edna St Vincent Millay, born in 1892.

This beautiful sonnet is one of my favourite meditations on memory, and grief. I first came across it, fittingly enough, as a poster in an English department office at the beginning of my teaching career.

On the one hand, it could easily be read as the enduring grief of death. Alternatively, I have more of a connection with the poem as the expression of the aftermath of a break-up. The lines 'There are a hundred places where I fear / To go' vividly recalls my inability, at times in my life, to visit places that I only used to go to 'together' ...

The final quatrain is devastating: the idea that you try to forge new memories, new experiences, that you try to carve out a space for yourself alone, only to be defeated by memory, is a bleak prospect indeed.

Sonnet 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. Source:

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