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A Few Figs from Thistles Paperback – January 29, 2010
Intrusion: A Novel
A loving couple, grieving the loss of their son, finds their marriage in free fall when a beautiful, long-lost acquaintance inserts herself into their lives. Learn More
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That famous poem is a suitable opening to the whimsical, quirky volume of Edna St. Vincent Millay's poetry, "A Few Figs From Thistles." These poems capture Millay at her most charming, full of lyrical poetry and enchanting imagery, though she also dips into darker, more fey territory.
After Millay's ode to her candle, she begins exploring the beauties of nighttime wanderings and eating fruit, disliking Thursdays, love ballads, beautiful roads, mythic beauties like Daphne, and the woes of being a poet ("Still must the poet as of old,/In barren attic bleak and cold,/Starve, freeze, and fashion verses to/Such things as flowers and song and you...").
The book ends with four superb little sonnets, which show that the basic lyrical poem is not the only kind that Millay could do well. The poems seem to explore different stages of love: the first is passionate and adoring, the second is loving but more aware of both lovers' flaws, and the third fiercely announces that she isn't in love and "were you not lovely I would leave you now."
The last one dismisses the ex-lover completely, with "I shall forget you presently, my dear,/So make the most of this, your little day,/Your little month, your little half a year,/Ere I forget, or die, or move away." Ouch.
Edna St. Vincent Millay is perhaps at her most relaxed in "A Few Figs From Thistles," which is less self-conscious about her flowery language. Many of the songs are reminiscent of old ballads ("MacDougal Street") or mischievous nursery rhymes ("What should I be but a prophet and a liar/Whose mother was a leprechaun, whose father was a friar?").Read more ›
The poems were great, the formatting not the best. But all in all, this book is worth the read.
Read Millay for her humor and wit that her poems often- albeit sometimes very subtly- evince. After all, this is the young lady who was a real hell-raiser at Vassar. Upon being threatened with expulsion after one escapade and demonstrating supreme indifference to that penalty, the Dean of Students -apparently a very wise woman- told the young Millay that she would not expel her after all, "not wanting another Shelley on my conscience." Millay, we are told, was so flattered by this comparison with one of her poetical heroes that she answered: "Well, under those conditions, I guess I can stand it in this hell-hole for another few years." You've got to love her spunk, right?
Read Millay for her social conscience. I don't think anyone can fail to be moved by her poems composed in honor of the martyrs of Lidice, for example: the little Czech village that was so brutally destroyed by the Nazis in reprisal for Heydrich's assassination by resistance fighters. Or be roused to indignation by the poems in honor of the treatment of Sacco and Vanzetti.
Read Millay above all, however, for the beauty of her lyrical gift. From the insouciance and youthful cheek of "My candle burns at both ends...." to the mature heartbreak of the sonnets in the "Fatal Interview" cycle Millay remains one of the greatest lyrical poets of the 20th century. She deserved the Pulitzer Prize when it was awarded to her nearly 100 years ago and she still deserves it today. Her poetry stands the test of time in spite of the views of some supercilious nay-sayers.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Theis is a must read for lovers of Millay. Read it closely and let it speak to you.Published 11 days ago by MaryAnn
I have been a long time fan of Edna st. Vincent Millay, and I always seem to find more with every read. I prefer her first collection- renascence. Read morePublished 3 months ago by MikkaRose
The four sonnets are the best selections from this collection, which make this collection worth it. I do recommend reading it.Published 6 months ago by Carolyne Hall
A crummy book! A shortened version of its original self. Not worth keeping. Not worth the price, no matter how cheap.Published 9 months ago by Edna anders
This book was a ripoff. The font was huge and not much content.Published 10 months ago by Carol Lynn Grellas