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.









39 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.

محمد على said...
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Alex C said...

Hooray - I'm delighted you're not dead :-)

In return I give you a limerick to cart around in your memory forever:
Deet /DDT

A mosquito was heard to complain
"The chemists have poisioned my brain.
The cause of my sorrow
is Para-Dichloro,
Diphenyl-Tricloro-Ethane!"

Anonymous said...

Why didn't you bother telling your fans you were doing the I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue theatre tour back in January? Here we are in October and I've only just found out you were at my local theatre back then! I'm gutted to have missed it and I'm sure lots of your fans who couldn't get to the Flying Visit would have loved the chance to catch up with you there instead, if only you'd told them.

Anonymous said...

John, John , Can you do a comedy skit about Hercule Poirot, please ?

Deborah Latham said...

Hello, John - how nice to be 'hearing' from you again! We've missed you! I wonder if you could do me a favour - can you tell Simon Kane what a joy it was to see him in the final episode of the recent series of 'Ghosts'? And the fact that he - like you! - is usually heard but not seen (radio evidently being the weapon of choice in both cases) caused me to unleash an extra-wide smile when Pat (I think it was...) asked whether he was 'someone off the telly'! It would be nice if the 'Ghosts' casting director came knocking on YOUR door at some point, too (suitably masked and sanitised, of course...) Alternatively, perhaps you can come up with a sketch that explains why ghosts are untrammelled in the horizontal - that is, can walk through walls - but are constrained vertically by remaining on floors at all times, rather than sinking through them (which would be rather annoying if you were a ghost trying to have a conversation with someone, only to find yourself unexpectedly sinking downward mid-sentence)...?

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Fee said...

I bought a set of books of the poetry of Edna St Vincent Millay on the strength of one poem read on the underground. Unfortunately I find most of her work doesn't speak to me the way that poem did. I prefer the falling downstairs poem to most of her output, frankly! Congrats on solving the virtual insoluble puzzle book thing, btw.

Caden said...
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Marianne said...

I know the first half of 'In Country Sleep' by Dylan Thomas. I recite it in my head while doing the plank. I find the sound and rhythm of the words really beautiful, and also I try to work out what the hell he was on about, to distract myself from the pain.

Also some shorter ones of which this is my favourite, by Christopher Logue.

Last night in London Airport
I saw a wooden bin
labelled UNWANTED LITERATURE
IS TO BE PLACED HEREIN.
So I wrote a poem
and popped it in.

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Unknown said...

Forgive me only now commenting on an older post of yours. I haven't come by to enjoy your blog in quite a while, but it's always a treat when I remember to take a look! I really love Edna St. Vincent Millay's poetry. She was such an interesting person, too, from what little I know of her -- which isn't much more than what wikipedia can tell me, to be honest, but even that sliver of biography is very interesting. If you're ever in the mood for a few more poems, I think you'd enjoy these, which are among my favorites even though they're not among her best-known works:

Intention to Escape from Him: https://poets.org/poem/intention-escape-him

An Ancient Gesture: https://allpoetry.com/An-Ancient-Gesture

Whereas at morning in a jeweled crown: https://www.poetrynook.com/poem/whereas-morning-jeweled-crown

Childhood is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies: https://poets.org/poem/childhood-kingdom-where-nobody-dies

Alms: https://poets.org/poem/alms

And for Walt Whitman, my favorite of his short poems is this one:

I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45471/i-saw-in-louisiana-a-live-oak-growing

Wishing you all the best! Your felicity with words has brought me as much joy as any of my favorite poets :)

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