Today’s birthday girl is
Edna St. Vincent Millay (February 22, 1892 – October 19, 1950)
also known as Nancy Boyd when writing prose, and who called herself ‘Vincent’.
Vincent was an American poet and playwright in 1923 she became the third woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, her first poems were published when she was in her teens, and already a bit of a ladies woman.
She first came to attention when she was passed over for a prize, and (to their credit) the men who had ranked higher than her protested that her poems was better, in one case handing ver the prize money. Nothing like a little controversy to launch a girl’s career, and she needed help the family were living in abject penury, and one of the pluses of the fuss was that Vincent attracted a wealthy patron who paid for her to go to college.
Her poetry was feminist and pacifist (during WWI). She had affairs with both men and women, notably Edith Wynne Matthison, a British actress.
letter to Edith Wynne Matthison
You wrote me a beautiful letter, – I wonder if you meant it to be as beautiful as it was. – I think you did; for somehow I know that
your feeling for me, however slight it is, is of the nature of love…When you tell me to come, I will come, by the next train, just as I am. This is not meekness, be assured; I do not come naturally by meekness; know that it is a proud surrender to You.
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!
But you, you foolish girl, you have gone home to a leaky castle across the sea to lie awake in linen smelling of lavender, and hear the nightingale, and long for me
I do not think there is a woman in whom the roots of passion shoot deeper than in me
One things there’s no getting by,
I’ve been a wicked girl,
But, if I can’t be sorry I might as well be glad !
I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
Penelope did this too.
And more than once: you can’t keep weaving all day
And undoing it all through the night;
Your arms get tired, and the back of your neck gets tight;
And along towards morning, when you think it will never be light,
And your husband has been gone, and you don’t know where, for years.
Suddenly you burst into tears;
There is simply nothing else to do.
And I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
This is an ancient gesture, authentic, antique,
In the very best tradition, classic, Greek;
Ulysses did this too.
But only as a gesture,—a gesture which implied
To the assembled throng that he was much too moved to speak.
He learned it from Penelope…
Penelope, who really cried