13 Love Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Milay in a suit

Though Edna St. Vincent Millay wasn’t considered a confessional poet, her prolific love life was often reflected in her lines, sometimes obliquely, other times directly. Following is a small sampling of love poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Some of Millay’s love poems hint at cynicism, others sorrow, while others still reflect a women in full charge of her sexuality and aware of her power over those whose hearts she won — or broke.

It has been argued that tales of Millay’s love life have eclipsed her reputation as a poet — and that this should be corrected, as she was a brilliant poet. In hindsight unjustly, er reputation began waning even before her untimely death.

Vincent, as she preferred to be called, entered Vassar College in 1913 at age 21. Several years older than her fellow freshmen (who were women, as at the time it was an all-girls school), she soon became aware of her power to attract members of both sexes, and used this to her advantage in her journey to become one of the most celebrated poet of the 1920s and 1930s. 

According to J.D. McClatchley, editor of Edna St. Vincent Millay: Selected Poems (2002):

“‘People fall in love with me … and annoy me and distress me and flatter me and excite me.’ And she responded in kind; there were torrid affairs with girls at school, adding to her campus notoriety, and tepid flings with older men who might help her career.

Throughout her life, she did what she felt she must do in order to create the conditions necessary to accomplish her work … After Vassar, she became the Circe of Greenwich Village. She was soon the talk of the town. 

Her affairs were sometimes of the heart, and sometimes more practical. The writers she took as lovers (and invariably kept as friends afterward) … were in a position to both teach and help her. And she had always been a quick study. The poems she wrote then — wild, cool, elusive — intoxicated the Jazz Babies. She had found the pulse of the new generation.”


The love poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay presented here are from her first four collections; all are in the public domain. The poems included here are:  

  • Ashes of Life
  • The Dream
  • Indifference
  • Recuerdo
  • Thursday
  • The Philosopher
  • Passer Mortuus Est
  • Alms 
  • Ebb
  • I, Being Born a Woman
  • What Lips My Lips Have Kissed
  • Loving You Less Than Life
  • The Spring and the Fall

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Edna St. Vincent Millay

Learn more about Edna St. Vincent Millay
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This is but a sampling of Millay’s poems that deal with the affairs of the heart. You’ll find these early collections in full on this site:

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Love has gone and left me and the days are all alike;
Eat I must, and sleep I will,—and would that night were here!
But ah!—to lie awake and hear the slow hours strike!
Would that it were day again!—with twilight near!

Love has gone and left me and I don’t know what to do;
This or that or what you will is all the same to me;
But all the things that I begin I leave before I’m through,—
There’s little use in anything as far as I can see.

Love has gone and left me,—and the neighbors knock and borrow,
And life goes on forever like the gnawing of a mouse,—
And to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow
There’s this little street and this little house.

(From Renascence and other Poems, 1917
Analysis of “Ashes of Life”)

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Love, if I weep it will not matter,
And if you laugh I shall not care;
Foolish am I to think about it,
But it is good to feel you there.

Love, in my sleep I dreamed of waking,—
White and awful the moonlight reached
Over the floor, and somewhere, somewhere,
There was a shutter loose,—it screeched!

Swung in the wind,—and no wind blowing!—
I was afraid, and turned to you,
Put out my hand to you for comfort,—
And you were gone! Cold, cold as dew,

Under my hand the moonlight lay!
Love, if you laugh I shall not care,
But if I weep it will not matter,—
Ah, it is good to feel you there!

(From Renascence and other Poems, 1917)


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I said,—for Love was laggard, O, Love was slow to come,—
“I’ll hear his step and know his step when I am warm in bed;
But I’ll never leave my pillow, though there be some
As would let him in—and take him in with tears!” I said.
I lay,—for Love was laggard, O, he came not until dawn,—
I lay and listened for his step and could not get to sleep;
And he found me at my window with my big cloak on,
All sorry with the tears some folks might weep!

(From Renascence and other Poems, 1917)

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We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed, “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

(From A Few Figs from Thistles, 1921
Analysis of “Recuerdo”)


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And if I loved you Wednesday,
    Well, what is that to you?
I do not love you Thursday—
    So much is true.

And why you come complaining
    Is more than I can see.
I loved you Wednesday,—yes—but what
    Is that to me?

(From A Few Figs from Thistles, 1921
Analysis of “Thursday”)

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And what are you that, wanting you
    I should be kept awake
As many nights as there are days
    With weeping for your sake?

And what are you that, missing you,
    As many days as crawl
I should be listening to the wind
    And looking at the wall?

 I know a man that’s a braver man
    And twenty men as kind,
And what are you, that you should be
    The one man in my mind?

Yet women’s ways are witless ways,
    As any sage will tell,—
And what am I, that I should love
    So wisely and so well?

(From A Few Figs from Thistles, 1921)


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Death devours all lovely things;
   Lesbia with her sparrow
Shares the darkness,—presently
   Every bed is narrow.
Unremembered as old rain
   Dries the sheer libation,
And the little petulant hand
   Is an annotation.
After all, my erstwhile dear,
   My no longer cherished,
Need we say it was not love,
   Now that love is perished?

(From Second April, 1921)

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My heart is what it was before,
   A house where people come and go;
But it is winter with your love,
   The sashes are beset with snow.
I light the lamp and lay the cloth,
   I blow the coals to blaze again;
But it is winter with your love,
   The frost is thick upon the pane.
I know a winter when it comes:
   The leaves are listless on the boughs;
I watched your love a little while,
   And brought my plants into the house.
I water them and turn them south,
   I snap the dead brown from the stem;
But it is winter with your love,—
   I only tend and water them.
There was a time I stood and watched
   The small, ill-natured sparrows’ fray;
I loved the beggar that I fed,
   I cared for what he had to say,
I stood and watched him out of sight;
   Today I reach around the door
And set a bowl upon the step;
   My heart is what it was before,
But it is winter with your love;
   I scatter crumbs upon the sill,
And close the window,—and the birds
   May take or leave them, as they will.

(From Second April, 1921
Analysis of “Alms”)


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I know what my heart is like
   Since your love died:
It is like a hollow ledge
Holding a little pool
   Left there by the tide,
   A little tepid pool,
Drying inward from the edge.

(From Second April, 1921
Analysis of “Ebb”)

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I, being born a woman and distressed
By all the needs and notions of my kind,
Am urged by your propinquity to find
Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
To bear your body’s weight upon my breast:
So subtly is the fume of life designed,
To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
And leave me once again undone, possessed.
Think not for this, however, the poor treason
Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
I shall remember you with love, or season
My scorn with pity, — let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.

(From The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems, 1922
Analysis ofI, Being Born a Woman)


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What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts to-night, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

(From The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems, 1922
Analysis of “What Lips My Lips Have Kissed”)

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Loving you less than life, a little less
Than bitter-sweet upon a broken wall
Or brush-wood smoke in autumn, I confess
I cannot swear I love you not at all.
For there is that about you in this light–
A yellow darkness, sinister of rain–
Which sturdily recalls my stubborn sight
To dwell on you, and dwell on you again.
And I am made aware of many a week
I shall consume, remembering in what way
Your brown hair grows about your brow and
And what divine absurdities you say:
Till all the world, and I, and surely you,
Will know I love you, whether or not I do.

(From The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems, 1922)


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In the spring of the year, in the spring of the year,
I walked the road beside my dear.
The trees were black where the bark was wet.
I see them yet, in the spring of the year.
He broke me a bough of the blossoming peach
That was out of the way and hard to reach.

In the fall of the year, in the fall of the year,
I walked the road beside my dear.
The rooks went up with a raucous trill.
I hear them still, in the fall of the year.
He laughed at all I dared to praise,
And broke my heart, in little ways.

Year be springing or year be falling,
The bark will drip and the birds be calling.
There’s much that’s fine to see and hear
In the spring of a year, in the fall of a year.
‘Tis not love’s going hurts my days,
But that it went in little ways.

(From The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems, 1922)


4 Responses to “13 Love Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay”

  1. So many of her sonnets are classics in every sense of that word. She writes more Petrarchan than Shakespearean and that is more than memorable. You could have included many more of those sonnets and satisfied me more.

  2. Every poem presented here are my very favorites; I will always be fascinated by Vincent’s brilliance.

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