Millay: ‘I shall go back again’

by abbamoses


I shall go back again to the bleak shore
And build a little shanty on the sand
In such a way that the extremest band
Of brittle seaweed shall escape my door
But by a yard or two; and nevermore
Shall I return to take you by the hand.
I shall be gone to what I understand,
And happier than I ever was before.
The love that stood a moment in your eyes,
The words that lay a moment on your tongue,
Are one with all that in a moment dies,
A little under-said and over-sung.
But I shall find the sullen rocks and skies
Unchanged from what they were when I was young.

Edna St. Vincent Millay


Edna St. Vincent Millay was one of the only 20th-century poets I know who worked seriously with the sonnet form: there’s a whole book of her sonnets, from which this gem is taken. e. e. cummings was another modern sonnet-lover; his are more modernist, as you might expect, but often formally strict.
The image above is a panoramic view of Maine’s Penobscot Bay, where Millay grew up. No doubt she had its rocky shores in mind when she wrote this.

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