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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 had a heart attack sitting on the steps inside her house naked with a glass of white wine in her lap, slain by an attack so gentle that the stem stayed in her hand, apocryphal perhaps that she didn’t drop the glass. The poem, however, lives, and as long as there are words to be said and those to say them Edna St. Vincent Millay isn’t dead even if at the end, she might have clasped one hand to her breast and like the rest of us gone toppling down the stairs.

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.



  1. robbiehenleyRob Henley

    Wonderful poem beautifully read. Thanks Don.

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

  3. Doris Emmett

    How beautiful

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