Apr 24 2011 11:00am

“Unremembered Lads”: Millay’s Lovely Ode to Heartbreak

Edna St. Vincent Millay image courtesy of Arnold Genthe via Wikimedia CommonsWhat lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply;
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands a lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet know its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone;
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

—Sonnet XLIII by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

And you thought black moments of heartache were only for romance novels! This poem evokes such romantic melancholy, and anyone who's ever had their heart broken will recognize the palpable loneliness she describes. But don't be too sad for Edna, however; from all accounts, it sounds like she led a pretty fabulous life.

Has a poem ever summed up just what you were feeling at a certain time? Which one was it?

Edna St. Vincent Millay image by Arnold Genthe via Wikimedia Commons

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Laura K. Curtis
1. LauraKCurtis
I know huge swaths of Dorothy Parker's poetry by heart. The one that comes to mind today is called "A Very Short Song":

Once when I was young and true,
Someone left me sad -
Broke my brittle heart in two;
And that is very bad.

Love is for unlucky folk,
Love is but a curse.
Once ther was a heart I broke;
And that, I think, is worse.
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
I love Dorothy Parker. Even tho she's wrong about the girls with glasses thing.
Robin Bradford
3. RobinBradford
hmmmm, I love this. "but the rain is full of ghosts tonight" not only goes with the weather, but also with the Nora Roberts book I'm re-reading (Midnight Bayou). And that's before touching on any interpersonal relations/revelations. Sigh. Sometimes things are SO good it can apply damn near anywhere. Everywhere.
5. Rachel70
Ditto @ Waite.. Love both poems!
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