Edna St. Vincent Millay

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Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain … Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.

Edna St. Vincent Millay (February 22, 1892October 19, 1950) was an American lyrical poet and playwright and the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. She was also known for her unconventional, bohemian lifestyle and her many love affairs. She used the pseudonym Nancy Boyd for her prose work.

Quotes[edit]

I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.


  • 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.
    • "Renascence" (1912), st. 3 Renascence and Other Poems (1917)


  • 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.
    • "Renascence" (1912), st. 20, Renascence and Other Poems (1917)


  • It's little I know what's in my heart,
    What's in my mind it's little I know,
    But there's that in me must up and start,
    And it's little I care where my feet go.
    • "Departure" (1918) from The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems (1923)


  • 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.
    • "First Fig" from A Few Figs from Thistles (1920)


  • Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand;
    Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!
    • "Second Fig" from A Few Figs from Thistles (1920)


  • Many a bard's untimely death
    Lends unto his verses breath
    ;
    Here's a song was never sung:
    Growing old is dying young.
    • "To a Poet Who Died Young" in Second April‎ (1921), p. 52


  • "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!"
    • From "The Penitent", A Few Figs from Thistles (1922)


  • But you are mobile as the veering air,
    And all your charms more changeful than the tide,
    Wherefore to be inconstant is no care:
    I have but to continue at your side.
    So wanton, light and false, my love, are you,
    I am most faithless when I most am true.
    • From Sonnet III: "Oh, Think not I am faithful to a vow!", A Few Figs from Thistles (1922)


  • After all, my earstwhile dear,
       My no longer cherished,
    Need we say it was not love,
       Now that love is perished?
    • "Passer Mortuus Est", st. 3, Second April, 1921


  • 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.
    • "Travel", st. 3, Second April, 1921


  • Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare.
    Let all who prate of Beauty hold their peace,
    And lay them prone upon the earth and cease
    To ponder on themselves, the while they stare
    At nothing.
    • Sonnet XXII from The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems (1923)


  • Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
    Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
    Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
    I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
    I only know that summer sang in me
    A little while, that in me sings no more.
    • Sonnet XLIII: "What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why" (1923), Collected Poems", 1931


  • 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.
    • Sonnet XXX from Fatal Interview (1931)


  • Childhood is not from birth to a certain age and at a certain age
    The child is grown, and puts away childish things.
    Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies.
    • "Childhood Is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies," lines 1-3, from Wine from These Grapes (1934)


  • … one damn thing after another … one damn thing over and over.
    • From an October 1930 letter to Arthur Davison Ficke, as variously described by her biographers, e.g.:
      • [L]ife was not so much "one damn thing after another" as "one damn thing over and over"
        • As paraphrased ("she had sent [...] a half-comic note, complaining that...") with quoted phrases in Jean Gould, The Poet and Her Book: A Biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay (1969), p. 198
      • [L]ife isn't one thing after another, it's the same thing over and over
        • As paraphrased ("she writes that...") and apparently Bowlderized in Miriam Gurko, Restless spirit: the life of Edna St. Vincent Millay (1962), p. 197
      • [I]t was not true that life is one damn thing after another — it was one damn thing over and over
        • As paraphrased ("Edna had written [...] that...") in Joan Dash, A Life of One's Own: Three Gifted Women and the Men they Married (1973), p. 189
    • The paraphrase by Dash appears to be the origin of later popularly attributed variants, e.g.:
      • It is not true that life is one damn thing after another. It's the same damn thing over and over.
        • As attributed without citation in Psychoanalysis Today: A Case Book (1991) by Elizabeth Thorne and Shirley Herscovitch Schaye, p. 93
      • It is not true that life is one damn thing after another. It's the same dang thing over and over again.
        • As attributed without citation in The Last Word: A Treasury of Women's Quotes (1992) by Carolyn Warner
  • The only people I really hate are servants. They are not really human beings at all. As attributed without citation in At Home by Bill Bryson, Chapter V, "The Scullery and the Larder" p. 111

External links[edit]

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