"God's World," by Edna St. Vincent Millay

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.

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5 thoughts on “"God's World," by Edna St. Vincent Millay

  1. I was suprised to be so captivated by this poem. Great delivery, I know that feeling of wanting to hold the beautiful natural world close my chest. Thanks for the exposure.

  2. Millay is so awesome. I hadn’t found that sonnet before. I read her for Thursday Poems a few weeks ago, but I’m afraid they aren’t being recorded these days…

    By the way, thanks so much for the article suggestions for my 17th class. I ended up using Empson (on Marvell), Hollander (on Donne), and de Pasquale (also Donne). And found a Herrick article I liked, too.

  3. Wonderful poem and wonderfully read.

    Her work is under-appreciated by the anthologists. She really is remarkable.

  4. Is your beloved English professor Elizabeth Phillips the same person as my beloved English professor Elizabeth Phillips? From Wake Forest University, now retired.

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