'First Fig' by Edna St. Vincent Millay

AI and Tech Aggregator
Download Mp3s Free
Tears of the Kingdom Roleplay
Best Free University Courses Online
TOTK Roleplay

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends-
It gives a lovely light.

Editor 1 Interpretation

First Fig: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

Oh, what a beautiful piece of poetry we have here! Edna St. Vincent Millay's "First Fig" is a sonnet that is easy to read, but hard to forget. In just eight lines, she manages to encapsulate the spirit of the Roaring Twenties, a period of excess, indulgence, and rebellion. So, let's dive into this masterpiece and explore the themes, structure, and symbols that make it a classic.


Edna St. Vincent Millay was an American poet and playwright who lived from 1892 to 1950. She was one of the leading voices of the modernist movement in poetry, which rejected the traditional forms and themes of the past and embraced experimentation, individualism, and freedom of expression. Millay was also known for her feminist views and her unconventional lifestyle, which included multiple love affairs and a bohemian existence in Greenwich Village.

"First Fig" was published in Millay's first collection of poems, "Renascence and Other Poems," in 1917, when she was 25 years old. The collection was a critical and commercial success and established her as a rising star in the literary world. "First Fig" is the opening poem of the book, and it sets the tone for the rest of the collection.


The main theme of "First Fig" is the pursuit of pleasure and the rejection of conventional morality. The speaker of the poem declares that she would rather burn out than fade away, meaning that she prefers a short and intense life to a long and dull one. She uses the metaphor of a flame to describe herself, and she compares her own fire to the stars, which also burn brightly but briefly. The poem is a celebration of youth, energy, and passion, and a rejection of the idea that one should live a cautious and restrained life.

Another theme of the poem is the tension between individualism and conformity. The speaker of the poem is a rebel who refuses to follow the norms of society and instead chooses to live on her own terms. However, her rebellious spirit is also a source of anxiety, as she knows that her flame will eventually go out, and she will be forgotten. The poem raises the question of whether individuality and freedom are worth the price of isolation and mortality.


"First Fig" is a sonnet, a fourteen-line poem that originated in Italy in the 13th century and became popular in England in the 16th century. The sonnet has a strict rhyme scheme and a fixed structure, which consists of an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines). The octave usually presents a problem or a question, while the sestet offers a resolution or an answer.

However, Millay's sonnet deviates from the traditional structure in several ways. First, it only has two quatrains (four-line stanzas) instead of an octave. Second, it has an ABAB rhyme scheme in both quatrains, which is unusual for a sonnet. Third, it lacks a volta, a turning point that marks the transition from the problem to the resolution. Instead, the poem has a single, self-contained statement that stands on its own.

These deviations from the traditional sonnet form reflect Millay's modernist sensibility and her desire to break free from the constraints of the past. She uses the sonnet form as a starting point for her own experimentation and innovation, and she creates a new kind of sonnet that is more free-spirited and spontaneous than the traditional one.


"First Fig" is full of vivid and powerful images that convey the speaker's attitude towards life. The most prominent symbol in the poem is fire, which represents the speaker's energy, passion, and rebellion. The flame is both beautiful and dangerous, and it can consume everything in its path. The speaker identifies with the flame and declares that she would rather burn out than fade away, even though she knows that the flame is ultimately destructive.

Another symbol in the poem is the stars, which are also associated with fire and brightness. The speaker compares her own flame to the stars, implying that she is as majestic and awe-inspiring as the celestial bodies. However, she also acknowledges that the stars are far away and unreachable, just like her own essence is hard to grasp.

Finally, the symbol of the night is also significant in the poem. The night represents the unknown, the mysterious, and the dangerous. It is a time when people can let go of their inhibitions and indulge in their desires. The speaker of the poem embraces the night and uses it as a backdrop for her flamboyant persona.


"First Fig" is a poem that speaks to the spirit of its time, but also to the universal human desire for freedom and self-expression. The poem celebrates the individual who dares to break free from the norms of society and live a life of passion and intensity. It challenges the idea that one should conform to the expectations of others and instead encourages people to follow their own inner voice.

However, the poem also acknowledges the price that one pays for such individuality. The flame that burns bright also burns out quickly, and the rebel who stands alone risks being forgotten. The poem raises the question of whether such a life is worth living, or whether one should seek a more stable and secure existence.

Overall, "First Fig" is a poem that inspires and challenges, that celebrates and questions. It is a classic of modern poetry, and it remains relevant and powerful today, more than a century after it was written. Edna St. Vincent Millay's legacy lives on in her words, and her flame continues to burn bright.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry has the power to evoke emotions, inspire thoughts, and leave a lasting impression on its readers. One such poem that has stood the test of time is "First Fig" by Edna St. Vincent Millay. This poem is a masterpiece that captures the essence of living life to the fullest and embracing one's passions. In this analysis, we will delve deeper into the poem's meaning, structure, and literary devices used by the poet.

Firstly, let us take a look at the poem's structure. "First Fig" is a short poem consisting of only eight lines. The poem follows a simple ABAB rhyme scheme, with each line containing only four syllables. This structure gives the poem a rhythmic quality, making it easy to read and remember. The brevity of the poem also adds to its impact, as every word is carefully chosen to convey the poet's message.

Moving on to the poem's meaning, "First Fig" is a celebration of living life on one's own terms. The poem's opening line, "My candle burns at both ends," is a metaphor for living life to the fullest. The candle represents life, and burning it at both ends means living life with intensity and passion. The poet is not content with living a mundane life, but instead chooses to embrace her passions and live life to the fullest.

The second line, "It will not last the night," is a reminder that life is short and fleeting. The poet is aware that her intense way of living may not be sustainable, but she chooses to embrace it anyway. The third line, "But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends," is a reflection of the poet's awareness that her way of living may not be accepted by everyone. She acknowledges that some may see her as reckless or foolish, while others may admire her for her courage and passion.

The fourth line, "It gives a lovely light," is a testament to the beauty and joy that comes with living life to the fullest. The poet's way of living may be intense and short-lived, but it is also beautiful and inspiring. The poem's final four lines, "And in the dawn, I find them gone," are a reminder that everything in life is temporary. The poet's intense way of living may not last forever, but the memories and experiences she gains from it will stay with her forever.

Now let us take a closer look at the literary devices used in "First Fig." The poem is rich in metaphors and imagery, which help to convey the poet's message. The candle burning at both ends is a metaphor for living life with intensity and passion. The candle's light represents the beauty and joy that comes with living life to the fullest. The poem's brevity and rhythmic quality also add to its impact, making it easy to remember and recite.

The poem's use of repetition is also noteworthy. The phrase "my foes, and oh, my friends" is repeated twice, emphasizing the poet's awareness that her way of living may not be accepted by everyone. The repetition of the phrase "and in the dawn, I find them gone" is a reminder that everything in life is temporary.

In conclusion, "First Fig" is a masterpiece of poetry that celebrates living life to the fullest. The poem's structure, meaning, and literary devices all work together to convey the poet's message. The brevity and rhythmic quality of the poem make it easy to remember and recite, while the metaphors and imagery add depth and meaning. "First Fig" is a timeless poem that continues to inspire and resonate with readers today.

Editor Recommended Sites

New Programming Language: New programming languages, ratings and reviews, adoptions and package ecosystems
Crypto Insights - Data about crypto alt coins: Find the best alt coins based on ratings across facets of the team, the coin and the chain
Learning Path Video: Computer science, software engineering and machine learning learning path videos and courses
Kids Books: Reading books for kids. Learn programming for kids: Scratch, Python. Learn AI for kids
Open Models: Open source models for large language model fine tuning, and machine learning classification

Recommended Similar Analysis

The Gift by Li-Young Lee analysis
Lament For Ignacio Sanchez Mejias by Federico García Lorca analysis
Inscription by Walt Whitman analysis
X-Ing A Paragrab by Edgar Allen Poe analysis
The Distracted Preacher by Thomas Hardy analysis
Sweeney Among the Nightingales by Thomas Stearns Eliot analysis
The Colloquy Of Monos And Una by Edgar Allen Poe analysis
My Last Duchess by Robert Browning analysis
Byzantium by William Butler Yeats analysis
Verses On A Butterfly by Joseph Warton analysis