Monday, 5 October 2020

I don't know any poems by Walt Whitman

Sadly, the only poems I know off by heart are very short. (I used to know 'Ozymandias', but I just checked, and... nope.)

Anyway, this morning I noticed that Edna St. Vincent Millay is probably unique in my head-space, in that I know precisely one poem off by heart by her, and one about her. 

The one by her is:
First Fig

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!
It's not my favourite of hers, though. My favourite, mostly because of the final couplet, is this one.
Sonnet IV

I shall forget you presently, my dear,
So make the most of this, your little day,
Your little month, your little half a year
Ere I forget, or die, or move away,
And we are done forever; by and by
I shall forget you, as I said, but now,
If you entreat me with your loveliest lie
I will protest you with my favorite vow.
I would indeed that love were longer-lived,
And vows were not so brittle as they are,
But so it is, and nature has contrived
To struggle on without a break thus far, —
Whether or not we find what we are seeking
Is idle, biologically speaking.
And the one I know about her - well, sort of - is I think by David Mamet. At least, he quotes it at the start of one of his plays, and Google doesn't turn up any other attribution for it.
The Reason I Like

The reason I like
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Is that her name.
Sounds like a basketball
     Falling
        Downstairs.

The reason I like
Walt Whitman
Is that his name
Sounds like
Edna St. Vincent Millay
       Falling
           Downstairs.









8 comments:

Tealin said...

These are all wonderful, in their own different ways. What is the significance of the title of the first one? I suspect there is something colloquial about first figs of which I am in ignorance.

John Finnemore said...

No, don't worry, it's not you! It's a reference to the title of the collection in which it is the first poem: 'A Few Figs From Thistles'. The next is called Second Fig, and goes:

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

slepkane said...

Oo I don't know her. That's fab. (I'm not a robot.)

Tealin said...

Haha! Thank you for the explanation and for the bonus feature of the Second Fig. A shining star for my evening.

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