15+ Best Edna St. Vincent Millay Poems You Need To Read

Edna St. Vincent Millay was an American lyrical poet and playwright. She received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923, the third woman to win the award for poetry, and was also known for her feminist activism.

If you’re searching for famous poems ever that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of most famous Rudyard Kipling poems, selected John Keats Poems, and best known Emma Lazarus Poems.

Famous Edna St. Vincent Millay Poems

Tavern

I’ll keep a little tavern
Below the high hill’s crest,
Wherein all grey-eyed people
May set them down and rest.

There shall be plates a-plenty,
And mugs to melt the chill
Of all the grey-eyed people
Who happen up the hill.

There sound will sleep the traveller,
And dream his journey’s end,
But I will rouse at midnight
The falling fire to tend.

Aye, ’tis a curious fancy—
But all the good I know
Was taught me out of two grey eyes
A long time ago.

Inland

People that build their houses inland,
People that buy a plot of ground
Shaped like a house, and build a house there,
Far from the sea-board, far from the sound

Of water sucking the hollow ledges,
Tons of water striking the shore,—
What do they long for, as I long for
One salt smell of the sea once more?

People the waves have not awakened,
Spanking the boats at the harbour’s head,
What do they long for, as I long for,—
Starting up in my inland bed,

Beating the narrow walls, and finding
Neither a window nor a door,
Screaming to God for death by drowning,—
One salt taste of the sea once more?

Pastoral

If it were only still!—
With far away the shrill
Crying of a cock;
Or the shaken bell
From a cow’s throat
Moving through the bushes;
Or the soft shock
Of wizened apples falling
From an old tree
In a forgotten orchard
Upon the hilly rock!

Oh, grey hill,
Where the grazing herd
Licks the purple blossom,
Crops the spiky weed!
Oh, stony pasture,
Where the tall mullein
Stands up so sturdy
On its little seed!

Rosemary

For the sake of some things
That be now no more
I will strew rushes
On my chamber-floor,
I will plant bergamot
At my kitchen-door.

For the sake of dim things
That were once so plain
I will set a barrel
Out to catch the rain,
I will hang an iron pot
On an iron crane.

Many things be dead and gone
That were brave and gay;
For the sake of these things
I will learn to say,
“An it please you, gentle sirs,”
“Alack!” and “Well-a-day!”

The Penitent

I had a little Sorrow,
Born of a little Sin,
I found a room all damp with gloom
And shut us all within;
And, “Little Sorrow, weep,” said I,
“And, Little Sin, pray God to die,
And I upon the floor will lie
And think how bad I’ve been!”

Alas for pious planning—
It mattered not a whit!
As far as gloom went in that room,
The lamp might have been lit!
My little Sorrow would not weep,
My little Sin would go to sleep—
To save my soul I could not keep
My graceless mind on it!

So I got up in anger,
And took a book I had,
And put a ribbon on my hair
To please a passing lad,
And, “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!”

The Wood Road

If I were to walk this way
Hand in hand with Grief,
I should mark that maple-spray
Coming into leaf.
I should note how the old burrs
Rot upon the ground.
Yes, though Grief should know me hers
While the world goes round,
It could not if truth be said
This was lost on me:
A rock-maple showing red,
Burrs beneath a tree.

To Kathleen

Still must the poet as of old,
In barren attic bleak and cold,
Starve, freeze, and fashion verses to
Such things as flowers and song and you;

Still as of old his being give
In Beauty’s name, while she may live,
Beauty that may not die as long
As there are flowers and you and song.

Underground System

Set the foot down with distrust upon the crust of the
world—it is thin.
Moles are at work beneath us; they have tunneled the
sub-soil
With separate chambers; which at an appointed knock
Could be as one, could intersect and interlock. We walk
on the skin
Of life. No toil
Of rake or hoe, no lime, no phosphate, no rotation of
crops, no irrigation of the land,
Will coax the limp and flattened grain to stand
On that bad day, or feed to strength the nibbled root’s of
our nation.
Ease has demoralized us, nearly so, we know
Nothing of the rigours of winter: The house has a roof
against—the car a top against—the snow.
All will be well, we say, it is a bit, like the rising of the
sun,
For our country to prosper; who can prevail against us?
No one.
The house has a roof; but the boards of its floor are
rotting, and hall upon hall
The moles have built their palace beneath us, we have
not far to fall.

The Fledgling

So, art thou feahered, art thou flown,
Thou naked thing?—and canst alone
Upon the unsolid summer air
Sustain thyself, and prosper there?
Shall no more with anxious note
Advise thee through the happy day,
Thrusting the worm into thy throat,
Bearing thine excrement away?
Alas, I think I see thee yet,
Perched on the windy parapet,
Defer thy flight a moment still
To clean thy wing with careful bill.
And thou are feathered, thou art flown;
And hast a project of thine own.

The Courage That My Mother Had

The courage that my mother had
Went with her, and is with her still:
Rock from New England quarried;
Now granite in a granite hill.

The golden brooch my mother wore
She left behind for me to wear;
I have no thing I treasure more:
Yet, it is something I could spare.

Oh, if instead she’d left to me

The thing she took into the grave!—
That courage like a rock, which she
Has no more need of, and I have.

Childhood Is The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies

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.

Nobody that matters, that is. Distant relatives of course
Die, whom one never has seen or has seen for an hour,
And they gave one candy in a pink-and-green stripéd bag, or a jack-knife,
And went away, and cannot really be said to have lived at all.

And cats die. They lie on the floor and lash their tails,
And their reticent fur is suddenly all in motion
With fleas that one never knew were there,
Polished and brown, knowing all there is to know,
Trekking off into the living world.
You fetch a shoe-box, but it’s much too small, because she won’t curl up now:
So you find a bigger box, and bury her in the yard, and weep.
But you do not wake up a month from then, two months
A year from then, two years, in the middle of the night
And weep, with your knuckles in your mouth, and say Oh, God! Oh, God!
Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies that matters,
—mothers and fathers don’t die.

And if you have said, “For heaven’s sake, must you always be kissing a person?”
Or, “I do wish to gracious you’d stop tapping on the window with your thimble!”
Tomorrow, or even the day after tomorrow if you’re busy having fun,
Is plenty of time to say, “I’m sorry, mother.”

To be grown up is to sit at the table with people who have died,
who neither listen nor speak;
Who do not drink their tea, though they always said
Tea was such a comfort.

Run down into the cellar and bring up the last jar of raspberries;
they are not tempted.
Flatter them, ask them what was it they said exactly
That time, to the bishop, or to the overseer, or to Mrs. Mason;
They are not taken in.
Shout at them, get red in the face, rise,
Drag them up out of their chairs by their stiff shoulders and shake
them and yell at them;
They are not startled, they are not even embarrassed; they slide
back into their chairs.

Your tea is cold now.
You drink it standing up,
And leave the house.

I will put Chaos into fourteen lines

I will put Chaos into fourteen lines
And keep him there; and let him thence escape
If he be lucky; let him twist, and ape
Flood, fire, and demon — his adroit designs
Will strain to nothing in the strict confines
Of this sweet Order, where, in pious rape,
I hold his essence and amorphous shape,
Till he with Order mingles and combines.
Past are the hours, the years, of our duress,
His arrogance, our awful servitude:
I have him. He is nothing more nor less
Than something simple not yet understood;
I shall not even force him to confess;
Or answer. I will only make him good.

The Prisoner

ALL right,
Go ahead!
What’s in a name?
I guess I’ll be locked into
As much as I’m locked out of!

Inert Perfection

“Inert Perfection, let me chip your shell.
You cannot break it through with that soft beak.
What if you broke it never, and it befell
You should not issue thence, should never speak?”

Perfection in the egg, a fluid thing,
Grows solid in due course, and there exists;
Knowing no urge to struggle forth and sing;
Complete, though shell-bound. But the mind insists

It shall be hatched … to this ulterior end:
That it be bound by Function, that it be
Less than Perfection, having to expend
Some force on a nostalgia to be free.

She Is Overheard Singing

Oh, Prue she has a patient man,
And Joan a gentle lover,
And Agatha’s Arth’ is a hug-the-hearth,­—
But my true love’s a rover!

Mig, her man’s as good as cheese
And honest as a briar,
Sue tells her love what he’s thinking of,­—
But my dear lad’s a liar!

Oh, Sue and Prue and Agatha
Are thick with Mig and Joan!
They bite their threads and shake their heads
And gnaw my name like a bone;

And Prue says, “Mine’s a patient man,
As never snaps me up,’
And Agatha, “Arth’ is a hug-the-hearth,
Could live content in a cup,’

Sue’s man’s mind is like good jell­—
All one color, and clear­—
And Mig’s no call to think at all
What’s to come next year,

While Joan makes boast of a gentle lad,
That’s troubled with that and this;­—
But they all would give the life they live
For a look from the man I kiss!

Cold he slants his eyes about,
And few enough’s his choice,­—
Though he’d slip me clean for a nun, or a queen,
Or a beggar with knots in her voice,­ —

And Agatha will turn awake
While her good man sleeps sound,
And Mig and Sue and Joan and Prue
Will hear the clock strike round,

For Prue she has a patient man,
As asks not when or why,
And Mig and Sue have naught to do
But peep who’s passing by,

Joan is paired with a putterer
That bastes and tastes and salts,
And Agatha’s Arth’ is a hug-the-hearth,­—
But my true love is false!

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