Betsy at “It’s All Connected” shared this sonnet with me in a comment on the Keats podcast below. The poem spoke to me, and I wanted to try to read it aloud. I’d like to hear Betsy do it, and I’d like to hear my beloved English professor Elizabeth Phillips read it too (she very much enjoys Millay), but in the meantime here’s my attempt.
English geek mode on: I found it hard to catch the tone, which is somewhere between ecstasy, hunger, and agony. The emotion is very intense and it’s difficult to avoid melodrama in the reading. Millay herself saves the poem from melodrama in that breathtaking final couplet, where the four monosyllables sound like flat resignation mingled with anger and sorrow.
It’s a terrific poem and one of the few sonnets I know with two stanzas of seven lines each. The break usually comes at line nine (8-6) or twelve (4-4-4-2). The unusual break makes the poem all the more poignant.