10 October 2013

Poetry Thursday - a sonnet by Edna St Vincent Millay

Only until this cigarette is ended
by Edna St Vincent Millay

Only until this cigarette is ended,
A little moment at the end of all,
While on the floor the quiet ashes fall,
And in the firelight to a lance extended,
Bizarrely with the jazzing music blended,
The broken shadow dances on the wall,
I will permit my memory to recall
The vision of you, by all my dreams attended.
And then adieu,--farewell!--the dream is done.
Yours is a face of which I can forget
The colour and the features, every one,
The words not ever, and the smiles not yet;
But in your day this moment is the sun
Upon a hill, after the sun has set.

Millay (1892-1950) wrote about 200 sonnets, all technically excellent. In 1923 she was awarded the Pullitzer Prize, but after her death her reputation waned as free verse became ascendent. Relationships - sharply observed - are her forte.


Celia Stanley said...

One of my favourite poets

The Idaho Beauty said...

And in this day and age of cigarette smoking not being so much the norm as in her day, can a reader truly understand the sort of contemplation she references here? Perhaps, if carefully watching an old movie, where cigarette smoking was as much a part of expression in a scene as a downcast eye or waggling finger. Do I wax nostalgic? Not really, but there was a time when I smoked on occasion and know the mood she is capturing with that opening phrase.