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Babbling and strewing flowers

The pear trees up the hill from me. Click on photo for high-res version.

I think it’s time for the annual posting of a poem about spring by Edna St. Vincent Millay.


To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots,
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

— Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1921.

Click on photo for high-res version


  1. Trish wrote:

    So, what did the poet know that caused her to be disillusioned by spring? At least that’s what I got from the poem. I was always terrible at literary interpretation.

    Friday, March 16, 2012 at 7:47 am | Permalink
  2. admin wrote:

    Partly, I think it’s that this poem expresses a passing mood. Millay wrote other poems about spring that were not so dark. However, she was often preoccupied with death, and often the exuberance of life and nature put her in mind of death. Her poems often show a powerful resentment of death. See “I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death.”

    Millay was once a rock star. Then she went out of fashion for 50 years. I believe she is on the short list of America’s best poets. Here’s another example of her preoccupation with death and the contrasting of nature’s beauty and exuberance with the ugliness and finality of death:

    Dirge Without Music

    I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
    So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
    Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
    With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

    Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
    Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
    A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
    A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

    The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
    They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
    Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
    More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

    Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
    Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
    Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
    I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

    — Edna St. Vincent Millay

    Friday, March 16, 2012 at 8:25 am | Permalink

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