For me Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) is the epitome of the flapper, an early twentieth century party girl, one who proved that just because you enjoy life and all it has to offer doesn’t mean that you’re brainless. I fell in love with her because of little ditties like the one below that shows how feisty and fun she must have been.
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!
Source: Poetry (June 1918).
But it was her mastery of the sonnet that made me love her more . . .
“Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!”
Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!
Give back my book and take my kiss instead.
Was it my enemy or my friend I heard?–
“What a big book for such a little head!”
Come, I will show you now my newest hat,
And you may watch me purse my mouth and prink.
Oh, I shall love you still and all of that.
I never again shall tell you what I think.
I shall be sweet and crafty, soft and sly;
You will not catch me reading any more;
I shall be called a wife to pattern by;
And some day when you knock and push the door,
Some sane day, not too bright and not too stormy,
I shall be gone, and you may whistle for me.
Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Eight Sonnets” American Poetry: A Miscellany, New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1922. Edited by Louis Untermeyer. p. 193-200.
“Time does not bring relief; you all have lied”
Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go,—so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.
Edna St. Vincent, “Time Does Not Bring Relief” from Collected Poems. Copyright 1931,1958.
“What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why”
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.
Edna St. Vincent Millay. “What my lips have kissed, and where, and why…” Vanity Fair (November, 1920).
For more on Edna St. Vincent Millay click this link: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/edna-st-vincent-millay