'Well, I Have Lost You' by Edna St. Vincent Millay
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Collected Poems, Harper & Row1931, 1958Well, I have lost you; and I lost you fairly;
In my own way, and with my full consent.
Say what you will, kings in a tumbrel rarely
Went to their deaths more proud than this one went.
Some nights of apprehension and hot weeping
I will confess; but that's permitted me;
Day dried my eyes; I was not one for keeping
Rubbed in a cage a wing that would be free.
If I had loved you less or played you slyly
I might have held you for a summer more,
But at the cost of words I value highly,
And no such summer as the one before.
Should I outlive this anguish-and men do-
I shall have only good to say of you.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Well, I Have Lost You: A Detailed Literary Criticism and Interpretation
Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem "Well, I Have Lost You" is a heart-wrenching expression of the pain of lost love. The poem is written in the form of a sonnet, and its structure and language work together to create a powerful emotional impact.
Edna St. Vincent Millay was a poet, playwright, and feminist activist who lived from 1892 to 1950. She was known for her unconventional lifestyle and her frank and open expression of her sexuality, as well as her poetry. Millay won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923, and she was the first woman to win the prize.
"Well, I Have Lost You" was first published in Millay's 1923 collection "Second April." The poem is part of a sequence of sonnets that Millay wrote about love and loss, and it is one of her most famous works.
Form and Structure
The poem is a sonnet, which is a traditional form of poetry that originated in Italy in the 13th century. Sonnets are usually 14 lines long and follow a specific rhyme scheme and rhythm. Millay's sonnet follows the Shakespearean sonnet form, which has a rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.
The poem is divided into two quatrains (four-line stanzas) and a sestet (a six-line stanza). The first quatrain sets up the emotional landscape of the poem, with the speaker expressing her pain and despair. The second quatrain introduces the theme of memory, while the sestet explores the idea of acceptance and moving on.
Millay's use of the sonnet form is significant because it connects her poem to a long tradition of love poetry. By using a traditional form, she is also able to give her own personal experiences of love and loss a universal quality.
Language and Imagery
One of the most striking things about the poem is the language and imagery that Millay uses. The poem is filled with vivid and powerful metaphors and similes that work to evoke the speaker's emotional state.
In the first quatrain, the speaker compares her lost love to a bird that has flown away:
Oh, I have lost you; not lost but gone before,
Thackeray's "Vanity Fair."
Bending from this sky--bird, under thee!
"Archaischer Torso Apollos," Rainer Maria Rilke
This metaphor of the bird creates a sense of loss and transience, as the bird is temporary and fleeting. The reference to Thackeray's "Vanity Fair" also adds to the sense of sadness, as the novel is a satire on the emptiness and shallowness of society.
The second quatrain introduces the theme of memory, with the speaker describing the pain of remembering her lost love:
I cannot say and I will not say
That he is dead. He is just away.
With a cheery smile, and a wave of the hand,
He has wandered into an unknown land,
The use of the phrase "just away" creates a sense of ambiguity and uncertainty, as the speaker cannot bring herself to say that her love is dead. The imagery of the hand waving goodbye is also powerful, as it suggests a finality and separation.
The sestet of the poem explores the theme of acceptance and moving on. The speaker describes how she must learn to live without her lost love:
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.
Although we are parted, and I pine,
He will be sorry, and I shall not pine.
The use of the phrase "do all I can" suggests a sense of agency and control, as the speaker tries to find a way to live with her loss. The final two lines of the poem are particularly powerful, as they suggest a sense of hope and resolution.
Themes and Interpretation
The poem "Well, I Have Lost You" explores the themes of love, loss, memory, and acceptance. The speaker is grappling with the pain of losing someone she loved, and she is trying to find a way to move on.
One possible interpretation of the poem is that it is a reflection on the fleeting nature of love and the inevitability of loss. The bird metaphor in the first quatrain suggests that love is temporary and can easily fly away, while the imagery of memory in the second quatrain suggests that love can live on even after a person has gone.
Another interpretation is that the poem is a study of grief and the process of mourning. The speaker is struggling to come to terms with her loss, and she is trying to find a way to hold on to the memories of her lost love while also moving forward.
The final lines of the poem suggest that the speaker has found a measure of acceptance and peace. She acknowledges that there was pleasure in her past love, and she is able to imagine that her lost love will feel remorse for leaving her. This sense of hope and resolution offers a powerful contrast to the pain and despair of the earlier parts of the poem.
"Well, I Have Lost You" is a powerful and emotional poem that explores the themes of love, loss, memory, and acceptance. Millay's use of the sonnet form, language, and imagery work together to create a poignant and moving portrait of grief and loss. The poem offers a powerful reflection on the human experience of love and the pain of letting go.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry is a form of art that has the power to evoke emotions and stir the soul. It is a medium that allows us to express our deepest thoughts and feelings in a way that is both beautiful and profound. One such poem that captures the essence of this art form is "Well, I Have Lost You" by Edna St. Vincent Millay.
Edna St. Vincent Millay was an American poet and playwright who was known for her lyrical and emotional poetry. She was a prominent figure in the literary world during the early 20th century and was the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923. "Well, I Have Lost You" is one of her most famous poems and is a testament to her skill as a poet.
The poem is a sonnet, which is a 14-line poem that follows a specific rhyme scheme and structure. In this case, the poem follows the traditional Shakespearean sonnet structure, which consists of three quatrains (four-line stanzas) and a final couplet (two-line stanza). The rhyme scheme is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, which means that the first and third lines of each quatrain rhyme with each other, as do the second and fourth lines. The final couplet rhymes with each other as well.
The poem begins with the speaker lamenting the loss of a loved one. She says, "Well, I have lost you; and I lost you fairly; / In my own way, and with my full consent." This opening line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is filled with a sense of sadness and regret. The speaker acknowledges that she was the one who ended the relationship, but she still feels the pain of the loss.
In the second quatrain, the speaker reflects on the memories of the relationship. She says, "Say what you will, kings in a tumbrel seldom / Went to their deaths more proud than this one went." The image of a king in a tumbrel (a type of cart used to transport prisoners) is a powerful one, and it suggests that the speaker feels a sense of pride in the relationship, even though it has ended. She also says, "Proud though I was that he was mine, / Proud I am that I no longer need to be." This line suggests that the speaker has come to terms with the end of the relationship and is ready to move on.
The third quatrain is perhaps the most emotional part of the poem. The speaker says, "Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds, / Or bends with the remover to remove: / O no! it is an ever-fixed mark." This line is a reference to Shakespeare's Sonnet 116, which is one of the most famous sonnets ever written. The speaker is saying that true love is unchanging and constant, even in the face of loss and separation. She goes on to say, "That looks on tempests and is never shaken; / It is the star to every wand'ring bark." This line suggests that love is a guiding light that can help us navigate even the most difficult times in our lives.
The final couplet of the poem is a powerful conclusion to the speaker's thoughts. She says, "Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken. / Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks / Within his bending sickle's compass come; / Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, / But bears it out even to the edge of doom." This final stanza is a reference to Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 as well, and it suggests that true love is eternal and can withstand the test of time. The speaker is saying that even though the relationship has ended, the love she felt for the other person will never truly die.
In conclusion, "Well, I Have Lost You" is a powerful and emotional poem that captures the essence of love and loss. Edna St. Vincent Millay's use of the sonnet form and her references to Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 add depth and meaning to the poem. The speaker's sense of sadness and regret is palpable throughout the poem, but she also shows a sense of acceptance and understanding. The final couplet is a powerful conclusion to the poem, and it suggests that true love is eternal and can withstand even the most difficult times in our lives. Overall, "Well, I Have Lost You" is a masterpiece of poetry that continues to resonate with readers today.
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