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Love Is Not All by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Today, Monday February 22, Edna St. Vincent Millay, had she lived, would have been 124. I was a little over a year old when she died. In my youth I swear I read somewhere that she died sitting on the steps in her house naked with a glass of white wine in her lap, slain by a heart attack so gentle she didn’t even drop the glass.

I’ve always loved the story and repeated it many times adding at the end that that certainly was the way to go. As it turns out, at least according to Wikipedia—and why believe them?—Edna Millay didn’t die gently sitting on the steps; she had a heart attack and fell down them, found dead eight hours later at the bottom. Whether clothed or naked Wikipedia doesn’t say. The poem, however lives, and as long as there are words to be said the poet’s not dead.

Last week on Tuesday I was in Pennsylvania in the South Mountain taking care of my father who is having trouble walking. After making him breakfast or taking him to the doctor or discussing politics or family matters, I would go walking in the woods. That’s where I recorded Millay’s poem, this lovely sonnet.



Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain,
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again.
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
pinned down by pain and moaning for release
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

Edna

Edna

4 Comments

  1. robbiehenleyRob Henley
    Posted 22 Feb ’16 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Wonderful poem beautifully read. Thanks Don.

  2. Posted 7 Nov ’18 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    Good reading of a lovely poem, Don. Thank you!

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