Listen to Millay read:Recuerdo

Recuerdo

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Listen to Millay read:Travel

Travel

The railroad track is miles away,

And the day is loud with voices speaking,

Yet there isn't a train goes by all day

But I hear its whistle shrieking.

All night there isn't a train goes by,

Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming,

But I see its cinders red on the sky,

And hear its engine steaming.

My heart is warm with friends I make,

And better friends I'll not be knowing;

Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,

No matter where it's going.

 

Listen to Millay read:God's World

Gods' World

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!

Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!

Thy mists, that roll and rise!

Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag

And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag

To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!

World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!

Long have I known a glory in it all,

But never knew I this;

Here such a passion is

As stretcheth me apart,—Lord, I do fear

Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year;

My soul is all but out of me,—let fall

No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.

Listen to Millay read:Love Is Not All

Love Is Not All

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink

Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain; 

Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink 

And rise and sink and rise and sink again; 

Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath, 

Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone; 

Yet many a man is making friends with death 

Even as I speak, for lack of love alone. 

It well may be that in a difficult hour, 

Pinned down by pain and moaning for release, 

Or nagged by want past resolution's power, 

I might be driven to sell your love for peace, 

Or trade the memory of this night for food. 

It well may be. I do not think I would.

Listen to Millay read:I Shall Forget You Presently, My Dear

I Shall Forget You Presently, My Dear

I shall forget you presently, my dear,

So make the most of this, your little day,

Your little month, your little half a year,

Ere I forget, or die, or move away,

And we are done forever; by and by

I shall forget you, as I said, but now,

If you entreat me with your loveliest lie

I will protest you with my favorite vow.

I would indeed that love were longer-lived,

And vows were not so brittle as they are,

But so it is, and nature has contrived

To struggle on without a break thus far,

Whether or not we find what we are seeking

Is idle, biologically speaking.

 

Listen to Millay read:The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver

The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver

“Son," said my mother,

When I was knee-high,

"You've need of clothes to cover you,

and not a rag have I.

"There's nothing in the house

To make a boy breeches,

Nor shears to cut a cloth with,

Nor thread to take stitches.

"There's nothing in the house

But a loaf-end of rye,

And a harp with a woman's head

Nobody will buy,"

And she began to cry.

That was in the early fall.

When came the late fall,

"Son," she said, "the sight of you

Makes your mother's blood crawl,—

"Little skinny shoulder-blades

Sticking through your clothes!

And where you'll get a jacket from

God above knows.

"It's lucky for me, lad,

Your daddy's in the ground,

And can't see the way I let

His son go around!"

And she made a queer sound.

That was in the late fall.

When the winter came,

I'd not a pair of breeches

Nor a shirt to my name.

I couldn't go to school,

Or out of doors to play.

And all the other little boys

Passed our way.

"Son," said my mother,

"Come, climb into my lap,

And I'll chafe your little bones

While you take a nap."

And, oh, but we were silly

For half and hour or more,

Me with my long legs,

Dragging on the floor,

A-rock-rock-rocking

To a mother-goose rhyme!

Oh, but we were happy

For half an hour's time!

But there was I, a great boy,

And what would folks say

To hear my mother singing me

To sleep all day,

In such a daft way?

Men say the winter

Was bad that year;

Fuel was scarce,

And food was dear.

A wind with a wolf's head

Howled about our door,

And we burned up the chairs

And sat upon the floor.

All that was left us

Was a chair we couldn't break,

And the harp with a woman's head

Nobody would take,

For song or pity's sake.

The night before Christmas

I cried with cold,

I cried myself to sleep 

Like a two-year old.

And in the deep night

I felt my mother rise,

And stare down upon me

With love in her eyes.

I saw my mother sitting

On the one good chair,

A light falling on her

From I couldn't tell where.

Looking nineteen,

And not a day older,

And the harp with a woman's head

Leaned against her shoulder.

Her thin fingers, moving

In the thin, tall strings,

Were weav-weav-weaving

Wonderful things.

Many bright threads,

From where I couldn't see,

Were running through the harp-strings

Rapidly,

And gold threads whistling

Through my mother's hand.

I saw the web grow,

And the pattern expand.

She wove a child's jacket,

And when it was done

She laid it on the floor

And wove another one.

She wove a red cloak

So regal to see,

"She's made it for a king's son,"

I said, "and not for me."

But I knew it was for me.

She wove a pair of breeches

Quicker than that!

She wove a pair of boots

And a little cocked hat.

She wove a pair of mittens,

She wove a little blouse,

She wove all night

In the still, cold house.

She sang as she worked,

And the harp-strings spoke;

Her voice never faltered,

And the thread never broke,

And when I awoke,—

There sat my mother

With the harp against her shoulder,

Looking nineteen,

And not a day older,

A smile about her lips,

And a light about her head,

And her hands in the harp-strings

Frozen dead.

And piled beside her

And toppling to the skies,

Were the clothes of a king's son,

Just my size.

Listen to Millay read:Exiled

Exiled

Searching my heart for its true sorrow,

This is the thing I find to be:

That I am weary of words and people,

Sick of the city, wanting the sea;

Wanting the sticky, salty sweetness

Of the strong wind and shattered spray;

Wanting the loud sound and the soft sound

Of the big surf that breaks all day.

Always before about my dooryard,

Marking the reach of the winter sea,

Rooted in sand and dragging drift-wood,

Straggled the purple wild sweet-pea;

Always I climbed the wave at morning,

Shook the sand from my shoes at night,

That now am caught beneath great buildings,

Stricken with noise, confused with light.

If I could hear the green piles groaning

Under the windy wooden piers,

See once again the bobbing barrels,

And the black sticks that fence the weirs,

If I could see the weedy mussels

Crusting the wrecked and rotting hulls,

Hear once again the hungry crying

Overhead, of the wheeling gulls,

Feel once again the shanty straining

Under the turning of the tide,

Fear once again the rising freshet,

Dread the bell in the fog outside,—

I should be happy,—that was happy

All day long on the coast of Maine!

I have a need to hold and handle

Shells and anchors and ships again!

I should be happy, that am happy

Never at all since I came here.

I am too long away from water.

I have a need of water near.

Listen to Millay read:

Listen to Millay read:

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Listen to Millay read:

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Listen to Millay read:

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The Society's mission is to illuminate the life and writings of Edna St. Vincent Millay and to preserve and interpret the character of Steepletop, her home and gardens, places where nature inspires the creative spirit.
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Millay Reads Her Poetry