Back after a period of net deprivation - thanks to Thomas for holding the fort.
(Poem #956) Ashes of Life
Love has gone and left me and the days are all alike; Eat I must, and sleep I will, -- and would that night were here! But ah! -- to lie awake and hear the slow hours strike! Would that it were day again! -- with twilight near! Love has gone and left me and I don't know what to do; This or that or what you will is all the same to me; But all the things that I begin I leave before I'm through, -- There's little use in anything as far as I can see. Love has gone and left me, -- and the neighbors knock and borrow, And life goes on forever like the gnawing of a mouse, -- And to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow There's this little street and this little house.
A beautiful poem, Millay giving me, as usual, that wonderful thrill of seeing a poet get it wonderfully, satisfyingly *right*. And today's poem is not just beautiful, but impressive - the concentration of imagery in each line, the way the lines blend into a seamless whole, and the sheer music of the words are breathtaking. The way the poem's construction reinforces its content is worth a closer look. "Love has gone and left me, and the days are all alike", starts the poem, encouraging the reader to flow with, rather than seek to vary, the rather metronomic rhythm. The invariance is reinforced by repetition - the repetition of "love has gone and left me' at the start of each verse, the parallel constructions like "eat I must and sleep I will', and the climactic "And to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow" all underscore the poem's basic theme. The most notable variation in the rhythm is the series of stresses in "slow hours strike", where the words lose their rhythmic flow and gain an emphasis that evokes the dull, weighty striking of the clock as it ticks the weary hours off. This is followed immediately by the brilliant "Would that it were day again! -- with twilight near!" - as perfect a phrasing of the sentiment as any I've seen. And finally, the poem appears to end uncharacteristically weakly - this is, however, perfectly consistent - like the speaker's days and nights, the poem has no satisfying conclusion, just a weary trailing off that promises no change and no surcease. Links: Millay poems on Minstrels: Poem #34, First Fig [with biography and criticism] Poem #49, The Unexplorer Poem #108, The Penitent Poem #317, Inland Poem #590, Sonnet XLIII Poem #604, Euclid Alone Has Looked On Beauty Bare Poem #817, Grown-up Poem #860, Sonnet: Love Is Not All Poem #905, Sonnet: I will put Chaos into Fourteen Lines Poem #926, Dirge Without Music -martin