Memorable Quotes by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Milay in a suit

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950) was an American poet and playwright considered a major figure in twentieth-century literature. Some argue that she is yet to be fully appreciated. Millay’s writing talents were first recognized when she was 19, with the poem “Renascence.” Here are some memorable quotes by Edna St. Vincent Millay, many brief and pointed, their simplicity belying the complexity of the poet herself.

Edna’s first collection, A Few Figs from Thistles, was published in 1921. In her lifetime, she became quite famous both for her talent and her unconventional lifestyle. It’s rare for a poet to attain superstar status, but that’s just what Edna did. Throughout the 1920s — call them Roaring or the Jazz Age — she recited to enthusiastic, sold-out crowds during her many reading tours at home and abroad.

Interspersed with her literary achievements were many love affairs with both men and women. Edna was open about her bisexuality, which was unusual for the time and continued her active love life within her open marriage.

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“A person who publishes a book appears willfully in public eye with his pants down. If it is a good book nothing can hurt him. If it is a bad book nothing can help him.”

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“I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes.”

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“Beauty is whatever gives joy.”

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“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.” 

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“Life must go on; I forget just why.”

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“The poem is the thing. Is it interesting?  Is it beautiful? Is it sublime? Then it was written by nobody. It exists by itself.” 

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“The younger generation forms a country of its own.”

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“Not truth, but faith, it is that keeps the world alive.”

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“Please give me some good advice in your next letter. I promise not to follow it.” (from a letter written while in college)

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Edna St. Vincent Millay quote on life being one damn thing over and over

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“Childhood is not from birth to a certain age and at a certain age. The child is grown, and puts away childish things. Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies.”

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“I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death.” 

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“This summer has been so short, so small. I think that like ‘Alice’ it ate the cake that said ‘Eat Me,’ and dwindled and dwindled until it was so tiny that it ran out through the cracks under the door.”

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“It’s not true that life is one damn thing after another; it’s one damn thing over and over.”

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“You see, I am a poet, and not quite right in the head, darling. It’s only that.”

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Edna St. Vincent Millay Collected Poems

Edna St. Vincent Millay page on Amazon*

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“I will be the gladdest thing under the sun!

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“Nobody speaks to me. People fall in love with me, and annoy me and distress me and flatter me and excite me and—and all that sort of thing. But no one speaks to me. I sometimes think that no one can. Can you?” 

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“Life is a quest and love a quarrel.”

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“I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.”

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“The longest absence is less perilous to love than the terrible trials of incessant proximity.”

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“I know I am but summer to your heart, and not the full four seasons of the year.”

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“Soar, eat ether, see what has never been seen; depart, be lost, but climb.” 

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“The soul can split the sky in  two and let the face of God shine through.”

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Edna St. Vincent Millay = My candle burns at both ends poem. . . . . . . . . .

“I love humanity but I hate people.” 

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“I am not afraid of lawyers as I used to be. They are lambs in wolves’ clothing.

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“Marriage is one of the most civilized institutions in the world … But swimming is one of the most wonderful of sports, and yet there are always some people who cannot swim who insist on going into the water and getting drowned. Many people spoil marriage in a like manner. One should be sure she knows how to be married before rushing into it.” 

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“I do not think there is a woman in whom the roots of passion shoot deeper than in me.”

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“I would blossom if I were a rose.” 

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