Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sunday Poetry - Edna St Vincent Millay

I've moved on to Millay's second book of poetry, A Few Figs from Thistles, & it seems appropriate that I've discovered Millay as I seem to be reading about several American writers at the moment. I've just finished reading Willa Cather's letters & her letters to Dorothy Canfield Fisher (author of Persephone's The Home Maker) were especially interesting. Cather & Canfield Fisher met when Cather was just establishing herself as an author & the six year age gap seemed enormous. Canfield (as she then was) looked up to Cather & admired her. However, they had a falling out in about 1905, & it was many years before the estrangement was resolved. The cause of the quarrel had puzzled scholars for years until the discovery of some of Cather's letters to Canfield in a barn (of all places) where they had been forgotten when Canfield Fisher's papers were donated to the University of Vermont in the 1950s. You can read the whole story here in this fascinating article by Mark J Madigan.

Willa Cather also knew Sarah Orne Jewett, so now I want to read more of her work. I read The Country of the Pointed Firs many years ago but now want to read her other stories. I also have several books on the tbr shelves that I want to get to - Elaine Showalter's survey of American women's literature, A Jury of Her Peers, Work by Louisa May Alcott, A New England Nun and other stories by Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman, Ruth Hall by Fanny Fern & The Morgesons by Elizabeth Stoddard (my 19th century book group will be reading this soon) as well as several unread Cathers & two books by Canfield Fisher, The Brimming Cup and The Deepening Stream. Any recommendations about where I should begin?

Anyway, back to Millay. This is Recuerdo (which means I remember in Spanish as I've just discovered). After the more melancholy poems of recent weeks, this one is happy & bouncy in mood & rhythm.

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed, “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares


  1. Great poem -- I think she was a wonderful poet, so immediate and yet so thought-provoking. Thanks.

  2. I love this poem! Also, I enjoyed your post with all the great information. Sarah Orne Jewett is also on my list of authors to read more of.

    1. You're welcome, Monica. It's a lovely, happy poem, isn't it?