Friday, September 28, 2012

I Wish I'd Written This

And you as well must die, beloved dust
By Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

And you as well must die, beloved dust,
And all your beauty stand you in no stead;
This flawless, vital hand, this perfect head,
This body of flame and steel, before the gust
Of Death, or under his autumnal frost,
Shall be as any leaf, be no less dead
Than the first leaf that fell, this wonder fled,
Altered, estranged, disintegrated, lost.
Nor shall my love avail you in your hour.
In spite of all my love, you will arise
Upon that day and wander down the air
Obscurely as the unattended flower,
It mattering not how beautiful you were,
Or how beloved above all else that dies. 

Another very famous poet for you this week — winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, and of the Robert Frost medal. I don't think she ever goes out of fashion. 

She's a great favourite of mine and this is my favourite of her poems, which I've loved a long time. As sonnets go, I think it must be close to perfect.

Although Millay was known to be bisexual, to me this poem seems a celebration of masculine beauty, a topic which is comparatively rare in poetry. 

And of course, the inevitable death of the beloved is something many of us must face. 

All her poems are at this link, and her books are still available on Amazon.

(In researching this post, I was surprised to find that Millay wrote a verse I have long been attributing mistakenly to Dorothy Parker: 

My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends —
It gives a lovely light.)

Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).


  1. Thank you Rosemary. A wonderful poet and poem you given us this week.

  2. ESVM is always good for reference and inspiration. This one is particularly evocative, and instructive as well. Great choice, Rosemary.

  3. This was a brave poem to write, and needs courage to read.
    Will it give comfort, I wonder.
    'Close to perfect' is right.

  4. Lovely choice, Rosemary. I especially love the second one. The first must speak especially to you, through these hard weeks, my friend.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this sonnet and her. I so admire the way you honor and celebrate the talent of others. Thank you!

  6. So tender and profound are her words~
    She had an insight about nature that reminds me
    of Mary Oliver~
    Thank you for sharing this poem! Love it~

  7. I am now reading her biography by Mark Epstein. She is known by her peers as Vince, a bohemian and magnetic persona loved by all. I love her poetry..

  8. I see that she died at age 58. So very young. I do enjoy her poetry, Rosemary, and enjoyed reading the sonnet you shared. Thank you.

  9. Millay is a favorite, perhaps THE favorite, of mine.

  10. This is just stunning...I forget how good she can be. And, then...


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