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Travel -- Edna St Vincent Millay

From Martin, whose email is still giving him problems:
(Poem #1064) 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'd rather take,
     No matter where it's going.
-- Edna St Vincent Millay
Another poem that really speaks to me (indeed, I believe that it is this
quality of speaking to, and often for, me that Millay possesses in greater
measure than any other poet with whom I am familiar). I am faintly reminded
of the old saying "It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive", but
even that misses the point - the word 'hopefully' implies that travelling is
a means towards an end. Millay celebrates, instead, the pure act of travel,
and the powerful attraction it can possess.

Of course, there is also a strong escapist subtext running through the poem,
the implication that, while the narrator might not care where she is
travelling *to*, she is certainly travelling *from* 'here'. However, I
believe, or perhaps prefer to believe, that that is not the poem's main
thrust - that, instead, the lure of the train is purely positive, a desire
to travel rather than to escape.

I've run a number of Millay's poems in the past, and attempted to analyse
their appeal; this one I'm running for the sheer visceral reaction it
provoked, and for the way it resonated with my own feelings on the matter.
Any further analysis would be superfluous.


[Minstrels Links]

Edna St. Vincent Millay:

Poem #34, First Fig
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, I will put Chaos into fourteen lines
Poem #926, Dirge Without Music
Poem #956, Ashes of Life

all of which can be found at
[broken link]

45 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Beth Sherman said...

The second to last line is "Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take"

Alice McLerran said...

I THINK the second verse starts with the word "At" rather than "All,"
but am not sure. I love this poem too, and was trying to recall it on
Dec. 23rd as we waited for it to be time to take two of our grandkids
to the train to return them to their parents after a pre-Christmas
visit with them. I had been telling them stories of how trains USED to
be in my own childhood. Even the efficient trains of Europe don't
touch the glamour of those old steam trains with their sumptuous dining
cars, their kind conductors and porters. I still remember the baked
apples that I could order for breakfast. Cinnamon-scented and
steaming hot, they could be cooled by cream poured from a small silver
pitcher of luxurious heaviness. An alloy, surely, but it seemed real
silver. A pity my grandchildren can never know those trains, the
sounds and smells of them. When I had a lower berth with access to the
window, I used to lie awake as long as I could so as to be able to
peek out at the towns through which we passed in the dark. Tracks
passed by lighted windows; I was glimpsing lives mine would never
cross. It was magic.

Marshall Butow said...

I understood the poem viscerally from when I read it in third
grade . The Day is long with voices speaking- speaking but not saying
\ anything- certainly not communicating . The poem is about escape,
both inner ( ennui) and outer (the every day ). It speaks to
movement and progress. I still love it
Marshall Butow

Barbara T said...

And I believe the title of the work is called Second April,
not Travel.

Barbara Torrey Clegg

Barbara T said...

Oops - I meant to say:

The poem, "Travel," is from a Millay collection of poems
called Second April.

Barbara Torrey Clegg

holy land tours said...

Wonderful. I love choosing a specific book of poems to take with me when I travel. Each country, or each city, is then filled with words that later connect me to that place again. Thank you for introducing this one, unfamiliar to me yet.

Unknown said...

What kinds of experience bring on restlessness?

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