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!
~ Edna St. Vincent Millay
from A Few Figs from Thistles (1920)
This is one of my favorite poems and I’ve adopted it as a kind of mantra for life.
Its author was Edna St. Vincent Millay, someone with whom I think I would have enjoyed having a cup of tea (or something a little stronger.) She was a feminist with a reputation for her many lovers, one of whom described her as “a frivolous young woman, with a brand-new pair of dancing slippers and a mouth like a valentine.” She turned down at least two other marriage proposals before marrying Eugen Jan Boissevain. She was an avid vegetable gardener and built herself a barn (and later a writer’s cabin) from a Sears Roebuck kit – unorthodox behavior for a woman born in 1892.
But more than all this, Edna St. Vincent Millay was one of America’s greatest poets of her time. She won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Frost Medal for her work, and is equally well known for her beautiful sonnets as for her controversial anti-war poetry.
Thomas Hardy is quoted as saying that, “America has two great attractions: skyscrapers and Edna St. Vincent Mallay. If I’d been born 80 years earlier, I think I would have made a point of getting to know her.
[Editor’s note: For those of you just joining this blog and wondering what on earth is going on here, we are celebrating National Women’s History Month by featuring great women who never had children.]