Millay vs. Shakespeare: Love, Loss and Lament

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Edna St. Vincent Millay's "What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, and Where and Why" is an effective short poem, which feeds on the dissonance between the ideal of love and its reality, heartbreak. In William Shakespeare's "Let Me Not to The Marriage of True Minds," the effectiveness is weakened by its idealiality and metaphysical stereotype. In contrast to Millay, Shakespeare paints a genuine portrait of what love should be but unfortunately never really is. This factor is what makes his poem difficult to relate to, thus weakening the effect on the reader. These poems were published quite far apart from each other, three-hundred and fourteen years to be exact, which might explain the shift in idealism. Though both circumnavigate the concept of love, the effect left within both writers based on personal affairs dramatically differentiates the personas of both speakers.

In Millay's poem " What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, and Where and Why" she laments over lost lovers. Ironically, she is described as both fondly remembering and regretfully forgetting them. In the second and third lines, the speaker recalls the lips and arms, of the young men, that have embraced her in the past, rather than their faces, suggesting her ignorance of their identities or names. She continues, "the rain is full of ghosts tonight." (3-4) In this octave she uses raindrops hitting a windowpane to stand for the sighs of lost lovers. She also compares raindrops to ghosts as a metaphor for memories of lost lovers, whose absence she feels, though who have faded into a vague abyss. In this comparison, she also uses the windowpane to show the separation between the present and past, or a border which allows insight but not interference. She is able to look back at her past but not change anything she has done thus she can only reminisce and unfortunately only regret. She describes "a quiet pain" (6) in her heart "for unremembered lads" (6-7) emphasizing her loneliness and sorrow caused by these...
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