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Edna St. Vincent Millay|Poetry

Updated on January 31, 2014

About Edna St. Vincent Millay

It was a poem written by Edna St. Vincent Millay that caused me to love poetry from a young girl. I was enamored with her and Lord Byron. I still am today. I write it constantly and only hope to meet a fraction of the mood brought forward by great poets.

The verse that sticks in my mind and forever haunts me is:

The world stands out on either side

No wider than the heart is wide;

Above the world is stretched the sky,-

No higher than the soul is high.

The heart can push the sea and land

Farther away on either hand;

The soul can split the sky in two,

And let the face of God shine through.

But East and West will pinch the heart

That can not keep them pushed apart;

And he whose soul is flat-the sky

Will cave in on him by and by.

Since I was little I worried and fretted a lot about death.. thus my interest in Lord Byron as well. He wrote a poem called "And Thou Art Dead" I memorized a lot of it when I lost a friend in high school.

Do try to take the time to read this entire poem.. it is a treasure and a window into the soul of Ms. Millay.

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950).

"Renascence" (1917)

ALL I could see from where I stood

Was three long mountains and a wood;

I turned and looked the other way,

And saw three islands in a bay.

So with my eyes I traced the line

Of the horizon, thin and fine,

Straight around till I was come

Back to where I'd started from;

And all I saw from where I stood

Was three long mountains and a wood.

Over these things I could not see:

These were the things that bounded me;

And I could touch them with my hand,

Almost, I thought, from where I stand.

And all at once things seemed so small

My breath came short, and scarce at all.

But, sure, the sky is big, I said;

Miles and miles above my head;

So here upon my back I'll lie

And look my fill into the sky.

And so I looked, and, after all,

The sky was not so very tall.

The sky, I said, must somewhere stop,

And-sure enough!-I see the top!

The sky, I thought, is not so grand;

I 'most could touch it with my hand!

And reaching up my hand to try,

I screamed to feel it touch the sky.

I screamed, and-lo!-Infinity

Came down and settled over me;

Forced back my scream into my chest,

Bent back my arm upon my breast,

And, pressing of the Undefined

The definition on my mind,

Held up before my eyes a glass

Through which my shrinking sight did pass

Until it seemed I must behold

Immensity made manifold;

Whispered to me a word whose sound

Deafened the air for worlds around,

And brought unmuffled to my ears

The gossiping of friendly spheres,

The creaking of the tented sky,

The ticking of Eternity.

I saw and heard and knew at last

The How and Why of all things, past,

And present, and forevermore.

The Universe, cleft to the core,

Lay open to my probing sense

That, sick'ning, I would fain pluck thence

But could not,-nay! But needs must suck

At the great wound, and could not pluck

My lips away till I had drawn

All venom out.-Ah, fearful pawn!

For my omniscience paid I toll

In infinite remorse of soul.

All sin was of my sinning, all

Atoning mine, and mine the gall

Of all regret. Mine was the weight

Of every brooded wrong, the hate

That stood behind each envious thrust,

Mine every greed, mine every lust.

And all the while for every grief,

Each suffering, I craved relief

With individual desire,-

Craved all in vain! And felt fierce fire

About a thousand people crawl;

Perished with each,-then mourned for all!

A man was starving in Capri;

He moved his eyes and looked at me;

I felt his gaze, I heard his moan,

And knew his hunger as my own.

I saw at sea a great fog bank

Between two ships that struck and sank;

A thousand screams the heavens smote;

And every scream tore through my throat.

No hurt I did not feel, no death

That was not mine; mine each last breath

That, crying, met an answering cry

From the compassion that was I.

All suffering mine, and mine its rod;

Mine, pity like the pity of God.

Ah, awful weight! Infinity

Pressed down upon the finite Me!

My anguished spirit, like a bird,

Beating against my lips I heard;

Yet lay the weight so close about

There was no room for it without.

And so beneath the weight lay I

And suffered death, but could not die.

Long had I lain thus, craving death,

When quietly the earth beneath

Gave way, and inch by inch, so great

At last had grown the crushing weight,

Into the earth I sank till I

Full six feet underground did lie,

And sank no more,-there is no weight

Can follow here, however great.

From off my breast I felt it roll,

And as it went my tortured soul

Burst forth and fled in such a gust

That all about me swirled the dust.

Deep in the earth I rested now;

Cool is its hand upon the brow

And soft its breast beneath the head

Of one who is so gladly dead.

And all at once, and over all

The pitying rain began to fall;

I lay and heard each pattering hoof

Upon my lowly, thatchd roof,

And seemed to love the sound far more

Than ever I had done before.

For rain it hath a friendly sound

To one who's six feet under ground;

And scarce the friendly voice or face:

A grave is such a quiet place.

The rain, I said, is kind to come

And speak to me in my new home.

I would I were alive again

To kiss the fingers of the rain,

To drink into my eyes the shine

Of every slanting silver line,

To catch the freshened, fragrant breeze

From drenched and dripping apple-trees.

For soon the shower will be done,

And then the broad face of the sun

Will laugh above the rain-soaked earth

Until the world with answering mirth

Shakes joyously, and each round drop

Rolls, twinkling, from its grass-blade top.

How can I bear it; buried here,

While overhead the sky grows clear

And blue again after the storm?

O, multi-colored, multiform,

Beloved beauty over me,

That I shall never, never see

Again! Spring-silver, autumn-gold,

That I shall never more behold!

Sleeping your myriad magics through,

Close-sepulchred away from you!

O God, I cried, give me new birth,

And put me back upon the earth!

Upset each cloud's gigantic gourd

And let the heavy rain, down-poured

In one big torrent, set me free,

Washing my grave away from me!

I ceased; and through the breathless hush

That answered me, the far-off rush

Of herald wings came whispering

Like music down the vibrant string

Of my ascending prayer, and-crash!

Before the wild wind's whistling lash

The startled storm-clouds reared on high

And plunged in terror down the sky,

And the big rain in one black wave

Fell from the sky and struck my grave.

I know not how such things can be;

I only know there came to me

A fragrance such as never clings

To aught save happy living things;

A sound as of some joyous elf

Singing sweet songs to please himself,

And, through and over everything,

A sense of glad awakening.

The grass, a-tiptoe at my ear,

Whispering to me I could hear;

I felt the rain's cool finger-tips

Brushed tenderly across my lips,

Laid gently on my seald sight,

And all at once the heavy night

Fell from my eyes and I could see,-

A drenched and dripping apple-tree,

A last long line of silver rain,

A sky grown clear and blue again.

And as I looked a quickening gust

Of wind blew up to me and thrust

Into my face a miracle

Of orchard-breath, and with the smell,-

I know not how such things can be!-

I breathed my soul back into me.

Ah! Up then from the ground sprang I

And hailed the earth with such a cry

As is not heard save from a man

Who has been dead, and lives again.

About the trees my arms I wound;

Like one gone mad I hugged the ground;

I raised my quivering arms on high;

I laughed and laughed into the sky,

Till at my throat a strangling sob

Caught fiercely, and a great heart-throb

Sent instant tears into my eyes;

O God, I cried, no dark disguise

Can e'er hereafter hide from me

Thy radiant identity!

Thou canst not move across the grass

But my quick eyes will see Thee pass,

Nor speak, however silently,

But my hushed voice will answer Thee.

I know the path that tells Thy way

Through the cool eve of every day;

God, I can push the grass apart

And lay my finger on Thy heart!

The world stands out on either side

No wider than the heart is wide;

Above the world is stretched the sky,

No higher than the soul is high.

The heart can push the sea and land

Farther away on either hand;

The soul can split the sky in two,

And let the face of God shine through.

But East and West will pinch the heart

That can not keep them pushed apart;

And he whose soul is flat-the sky

Will cave in on him by and by.

~ Now aren't you glad you took time to read it?

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Born: 22-Feb-1892

Birthplace: Rockland, ME

Died: 19-Oct-1950

Location of death: Austerlitz, NY

Cause of death: Heart Failure

Gender: Female

Race or Ethnicity: White

Sexual orientation: Bisexual

Occupation: Poet

Nationality: United States

Executive summary: Renascence

Father: Henry Tollman Millay (schoolteacher)

Mother: Cora Lounella Buzzelle (nurse)

Sister: Norma

Sister: Kathleen

Husband: Eugen Jan Boissevain (Dutch businessman, m. 1923, open marriage, d. 1949 lung cancer)

Slept with: George Dillon (poet)

Girlfriend: Wynne Matthison


Turn on some music!


as you enjoy my lens.

The music of Melissa Etheridge and Joss Stone is posted below for sale as well.

I tried to think of who Edna St. Vincent Millay would like and chose Melissa Etheridge because of her strong determination to survive and Joss Stone because she is brilliant at expressing her own soul while singing a bit of Janice Joplin.

Quotes by Edna St. Vincent Millay and List of Selected Works

God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on Thy heart.


I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes.


I know I am but summer to your heart, and not the full four seasons of the year.


It's not true that life is one damn thing after another; it's one damn thing over and over.


Music my rampart, and my only one.


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!


Not truth, but faith, it is that keeps the world alive.


Parrots, tortoises and redwoods live a longer life than men do; Men a longer life than dogs do; Dogs a longer life than love does.


Please give me some good advice in your next letter. I promise not to follow it.


Set the foot down with distrust on the crust of the world - it is thin.


The longest absence is less perilous to love than the terrible trials of incessant proximity.


The soul can split the sky in two and let the face of God shine through.


The young are so old, they are born with their fingers crossed.


We are all ruled in what we do by impulses; and these impulses are so organized that our actions in general serve for our self preservation and that of the race.


What the customer demands is last year's model, cheaper. To find out what the customer needs you have to understand what the customer is doing as well as he understands it. Then you build what he needs and you educate him to the fact that he needs it.


Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.

Edna St. Vincent Millay


A Selected Bibliography


A Few Figs from Thistles (1920)

Collected Lyrics (1943)

Collected Poems (1949)

Collected Poems (1956)

Collected Sonnets (1941)

Conversations at Midnight (1937)

Distressing Dialogues (1924)

Fatal Interview (1931)

Huntsman, What Quarry? (1939)

Invocation of the Muses (1941)

Make Bright the Arrows (1940)

Mine the Harvest (1954)

Poem and Prayer for an Invading Army (1944)

Poems (1923)

Renascence and Other Poems (1917)

Second April (1921)

The Buck in the Snow (1928)

The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems (1923)

There Are No Islands Any More (1940)

Wine from These Grapes (1934)


Aria da Capo (1921)

Distressing Dialogues (1924)

The King's Henchmanv (1927)

The Lamp and the Bell (1921)

The Murder of Lidice (1942)

The Princess Marries the Page (1932)

Three Plays (1926)

Two Slatterns and a King (1921)


Great Edna St. Vincent Millay stuff from Amazon

Melissa Etheridge and Joss Stone

Is Joss Stone the New Janice Joplin?

Is Joss Stone the new Janice Joplin?

Quick, what do you think of Edna St. Vincent Millay?

See results

There Are Millions Who Walk in Crowds - Unknown to Their Own Selves

In HONOR of Edna St Vincint Millay,by Kathy Ostman-Magnusen


There are millions who walk in crowds


to their own selves.

Self inflicted wounds

broken slates that bore

some kind of promise


Treasuring tunes of sainthood

someone they hoped to be

yet crucified

by stark colors

of their own vanity.

Signs on the wall

baskets of honor


that are meant to stay closed

lest the truth fly in.

You saw their virtue all gone

at least that's what you said

one rainy afternoon.

But Lily

little fairy hope of mine

still sees them in white

well meaning

addicted to finding cures

and perhaps a few good deeds

or at lest that's what she told me.

There are charms we all enlist

to cover up inadequacies.

Glancing over bridges

we consider the advantages

but refuse to pass ore

thus leaving that one wilting flower


And there we say

we are as compassionate

as the next.

Maybe that's irrelevant now.

Clinging to words

I refuse to ignore

I feel cold

I shiver

beneath these platitudes

statements of moral content

that used to be my solace.

Now they are passed over

for fear of being scrutinized

by well mannered



Souls who wander confused

me and maybe you

Lets be sure to mark the pathways

so we can find our way home.

With so many distractions

we may never know our own conscience

until it has been sold.

I see our unsaid confessions

ponder failures

as we all must

stinging now

those works that hosted a certain quality

of being dull



but none the less took on a critical eye

and rescued us all

if only

in name.


ABOUT Kathy Ostman-Magnusen: I am an artist, represented by Monkdogz Urban Art, New York. ORIGINAL ART may be purchased through Monkdogz:

FREE ART GIFTS,suitable for children plus prints, giclees, cards, available on my website:

THE IMAGE is of my sculpture "Bleeding Wings 5"


"The Penitent" by Edna St. Vincent Millay (poetry reading)

"The Penitent" by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I had a little Sorrow,

Born of a little Sin,

I found a room all damp with gloom

And shut us all within;

And, "Little Sorrow, weep," said I,

"And, Little Sin, pray God to die,

And I upon the floor will lie

And think how bad I've been!"

Alas for pious planning—

It mattered not a whit!

As far as gloom went in that room,

The lamp might have been lit!

My little Sorrow would not weep,

My little Sin would go to sleep—

To save my soul I could not keep

My graceless mind on it!

So I got up in anger,

And took a book I had,

And put a ribbon on my hair

To please a passing lad,

And, "One thing there's no getting by—

I've been a wicked girl," said I:

"But if I can't be sorry, why,

I might as well be glad!"

Art Fantasy Woman

"Art Fantasy Woman-Every Goddess in Woman-I Know a Tale"

Fantasy woman

every goddess in woman

I know a tale

I know an art fantasy woman.

There beneath the ferns

my Lily does prevail

a victim of her own

self induced


Such a garden she has known

such a flower

temptations met to know their invisible dance.

Late at night I heard her laughing

a chatter coming through my bedroom wall.

I heard dear Lily step into the forest

past my contentions

saying no

not without following a plan.

This world is actually quite small.

No rules can be broken

no path to discover

put your heart there on the mantle

and walk only

as you are told.

Lily dear Lily

fantasy art woman

how bold and free

how luxurious are your pleasures.

My fantasy art goddess


moved forward

past my still wet map

and bleeding gothic fairies.

Blindly she reaches out on stormy nights

that has always been her weakness.

No measuring of consequences

No watching for the mounted posse

planning her demise.

Lily, fantasy woman

every goddess in woman

rests in our own wishful smiles.

Taking chances

dare I say she is my hero?

Despite my desperate objections?

Beautiful fantasy that is Lily.

Fantasy art woman

I cannot let you leave my grasp.

I had never known that flowers dance

never thought that far.

It was Lily slipping past the night

ready for any enemy refusing her entry

who told me it was true.

I am Lily

I am an art fantasy woman.

Let me be

every prayer

I press between worn pages.

Lord Byron

Edna St. Vincent Millay

let me rest my head in your passion

read every line

know my own

be Lily

a fantasy of art woman

when I need to take her home.

Taking chances

dare I say she is my hero?

07 June 2008

by Kathy Ostman-Magnusen

Share your stories, sightings, thoughts, rants, raves...

Shout Out For Edna St. Vincent Millay!

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    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I still can picture my teacher reciting her poems. One of my favourite writers.

    • goo2eyes lm profile image

      goo2eyes lm 

      6 years ago

      squidangel blessings for edna.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I hope that she has found her true peace and happiness as I read much sadness in her writings. This particular quote touched me as I believe I lived it with the ex: "I know I am but summer to your heart, and not the full four seasons of the year."

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 

      6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      I hadn't heard of her before, interesting poems. It's always good to learn about people.

    • goo2eyes lm profile image

      goo2eyes lm 

      6 years ago

      i read about her in our school library a lot.

    • Home Interior D profile image

      Home Interior D 

      7 years ago

      She was an interesting woman, that for certain. Her poems are beautiful.

      I remember her name from a recent blog post I made about her old home being refurbished.

      You might like to peek at it here:

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      She is one of my favourite poets. I have not read her biography so this is the first time I have come across snippets of her life. Very interesting.


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