Friday, September 23, 2011

Poetry Friday: Edna St. Vincent Millay

I'd almost forgotten how much I love the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay. But for the past week or so, my nine year old daughter has been memorizing "Afternoon on a Hill." Its gentle music still speaks to my heart, and I've loved discussing it with her. We've talked about the lovely alliteration of "I will look at cliffs and clouds/ with quiet eyes" (how I long for "quiet eyes"!) and we've also talked about how the speaker of the poem felt joy in the present moment as she declared "I will touch a hundred flowers/and not pick one." That's always been my favorite line ~ I love the way the narrator doesn't feel the need to possess what she's enjoying, but just lets the flowers stay free, growing right where they are.

Remembering this poem sent me looking for another old favorite by Millay. I was introduced to "Recuerdo" (the title means "Memory") through Madeleine L'Engle, who provided my introduction to so many wonderful poems through the years. I still love the whimsical, lilting quality of this poem:

"We were very tired, we were very merry --
We had gone back and forth all night upon the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable --
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on the hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon."

I love the story sense in this poem. How easy it is to picture two people having such joy in each other's company that they spend the whole night just talking, riding back and forth (no destination intended) on the boat, lying on the hilltop, watching the moon give way to the sunrise. It strikes me that this poem also celebrates the practice of the present moment, the joy of living right where you are without worry about what's to come next. In the final stanza, they do start for home (as does the person on the hilltop in "Afternoon on a Hill") but they give away all their remaining fruit and all their money except what they need for subway fares. Just living simply and with gratitude in the moment, again without the urgent need to possess.

The whole poem can be found at Poetry Archive.

Today's poetry round-up can be found at Picture Book of the Day.

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