Among the an excellent literary numbers who have actually brought difference to the Berkshires, she to be the very first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for poetry and also she rivaled Robert Frost as America’s greatest-ever writer the sonnets

Harvey hill sits astride the border line separating brand-new York from Massachusetts. On the new York next is the huge estate dubbed “Steepletop” wherein Edna St. Vincent Millay (1992-1950), as soon as America’s most renowned poet, lived and also is buried. ~ above the other side that the mountain, less than a mile away, is West Stockbridge. Provided this geography, ns am fairly comfortable in including Millay among the good literary numbers who have brought difference to the Berkshires.

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Vincent, as she favored to call herself, was a an extremely special person. She was called for a hospital (St. Vincent’s in Greenwich Village); she resided for a time in the narrowest house in brand-new York (9 and ½ feet wide); she to be the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize because that poetry; she rivaled Robert Frost as America’s greatest-ever writer that sonnets; and also amidst the Flaming Youth that the 1920’s she colorfully live out her own poem:

My candle burns at both ends;It will certainly not last the night;But ah, my foes, and oh, mine friends—It offers a lovely light!

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Vincent and also her 2 sisters to be born and also raised in Maine. Her household was poor, yet a identified mother motivated her daughter’s talents together a budding poet (and completed pianist), and also her juvenile poems to be in publish from her beforehand teens. Vincent was twenty-one prior to enough money was uncovered for she to go to college (Vassar), yet by the time she had actually written and had published a break-through poem, “Renascence,” that shortly made she a semi-celebrity in literary new York.

“Renascence” is an particularly piece, explicate an ecstatic experience that extends the borders of separation, personal, instance perception.

I screamed, and—lo!—InfinityCame down and settled over me;Forced back my scream into my chest,Bent earlier my eight upon my breast,And, pressing of the UndefinedThe definition on my mind,Held up prior to my eyes a glassThrough which mine shrinking vision did passUntil it seemed I need to beholdImmensity make manifold;Whispered come me a word whose soundDeafened the air for human beings around,And brought unmuffled to mine earsThe gossiping of friendly spheres,The creaking that the tented sky,The ticking of Eternity.

Small sidebar: before there to be a Johnny Carson, there was Dave Garroway, hold of among television’s an initial magazine shows. He made that a exercise to authorize off each program with this quote from “Renascence:”

The people stands out on one of two people sideNo wider than the heart is wide;Above the civilization is stretched the sky,—No greater than the heart is high.

After Vassar, Vincent hurried off to new York and immediately created herself together a guiding heart for the Bohemians the Greenwich Village. She ended up being an actress at the now legendary Provincetown Playhouse and also wrote a play because that them, “Aria da Capo,” the is still performed. As soon as her candle-burns-at-both-ends poem was published, it became the anthem because that the Villagers and a an individual modus operandi because that Vincent. She an unified poetry through a free-wheeling sex-related life, some of it meaningful however much of it casual.

And if i loved girlfriend Wednesday,Well, what is the to you?I carry out not love girlfriend Thursday—So lot is true.

And why friend come complainingIs much more than I deserve to see.I loved you Wednesday,—yes—but whatIs that to me?

Millay’s doll-size townhouse in Greenwich Village. The exterior is 9½ feet wide, the internal just 8 feet.

After eight vibrant town years, Vincent began to settle and married a effective coffee importer from Holland that purchased for she the Steepletop estate where she centered the remainder of she life. In addition to her writing, she make a fine life touring the nation performing her very own works — she had actually a mesmerizing alto voice — yet Steepletop became her can be fried refuge.

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Throughout she career Millay adopted the 14 line sonnet type and ended up being a masterful practitioner, writing dozens that them. Countless she supplied for an individual reflection.

What lips mine lips have actually kissed, and also where, and why,I have forgotten, and also what arms have lainUnder mine head it rotates morning; but the rainIs complete of ghosts tonight, the tap and sighUpon the glass and also listen for reply,And in my heart there stirs a quiet painFor unremembered lads that not againWill turn to me at midnight through a cry.

Thus in the winter was standing the lonely tree,Nor to know what birds have actually vanished one by one,Yet knows its boughs an ext silent 보다 before:I cannot say what loves have come and also gone,I only recognize that summer sang in meA small while, that in me sings no more.

And, a rarity amongst America’s name-above-title poets, Millay was commissioned to compose an opera, and also “The king’s Henchman” to be premiered to great acclaim by the metropolitan Opera in 1927 (music through Deems Taylor). In a Verdi/Puccini human being populated through Italian realism, Millay unexpectedly derived her libretto indigenous an “Anglo-Saxon Chronicle” written during the ninth century throughout the power of Alfred the Great. Indigenous a normally gentle poet, right here was she astonishingly powerful opening:

Wild as the white wavesRushing and roaring,Heaving the wrackHigh up the headland;Hoarse as the howlingWinds of the winter.When the lean wolvesHarry the hindmost,Horseman and horseToppled and tumbled;So at the town gate,Stroke upon stroke,Sledging and slaying,Swashes the sword,Shivers the shieldOf foeman and kinsman:Such was the fight!

A Poetic Nymph sitting by her pool at Steepletop.

Millay composed often around death, and also at one point Macmillan, the publishers, wouldn’t take it her latest book since of its fatality themes:

Butterflies are white and blueIn this field we wander through.Suffer me come take your hand.Death come in a job or two.

All the things we ever before knewWill it is in ashes in that hour:Mark the transient butterfly,How that hangs top top the flower.

Suffer me to take her hand.Suffer me to cherish youTill the dawn is in the sky.Whether i be false or true,Death come in a job or two.

And Death pertained to Millay so late one October night in 1950 when, alone in ~ Steepletop, she pitched under a dark flight of stairs and also was discovered dead the next day. She to be 58 year old. Alongside her top top the landing to be a notebook through these lines:

I will manage myself, or go inside.I will not flaw perfection through my grief.Handsome, this day, no matter who has died.

Her candle had not lasted the night.

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But probably we should finish this pillar on a more joy remembrance. In she heyday, Vincent routinely turned down lovers that wished come marry her, and there were quite a few. She likened them to she publishers: “Although I refuse their proposals, i welcome your advances.”

Thomas Hardy, the brothers novelist and also poet, when said the there were two an excellent things in the united States: our skyscrapers and also the city of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

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Here is a choice of Millay’s poems perform by Valerie Harper and also three members the the very first Poetry Quartet: Jill Tanner, George Backman and also Cynthia Herman.