AP/IB English, period 1
30 August 2010
Word Count: 534
“The Buck in the Snow” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Over a short twelve lines, the speaker in “The Buck in the Snow” mourns then philosophizes over the realism of death, which represents sin, vice, pain, and everything imperfect in the world. The imagery and diction chosen by Edna St. Vincent Millay suggest a sorrowful mood that matches the mournful prayer of the speaker in the first stanza: White sky, saw you not the buck and his doe? However they contrast the pensive tone of the speaker throughout the third stanza.
In the midst of the imagery of the buck and his doe, the reader may miss other words that hint at the meaning of the poem. For example, Edna St. Vincent Millay uses enjambment between lines 2 and 3 to separate and draw attention to the phrase, “Standing in the apple-orchard” (line 3). The apple-orchard alludes to the Garden of Eden and its forbidden fruit. This idea is reaffirmed by the repetition of the word “hemlocks,” a poisonous plant (lines 1, 5, and 10). The deer leap “Over the stone-wall” (line 5) and into the wood containing the poisonous plant, just as Adam and Eve ate the morally poisonous fruit and had to leave the Garden. St. Vincent Millay also heavily repeats the word “snow,” (lines 1, 5, 6, 8, and 11). Along with the “White sky” (line 1), the snow suggests the natural purity of the world. However, once the buck jumps over the wall and dies, his “wild blood,” unruly and reckless, burns the pure and natural snow. The image of the buck’s fresh blood on the snow yearns to evoke the reader’s sympathy, yet the speaker’s collected tone imparts on the reader the commonness of the scene. St. Vincent Millay manipulates diction in poem to create this tone. Repetition of the “L” and long “O” sounds throughout the poem lull the reader into a trance, detracting from the obvious mournful mood created by image of the dying buck, i.e. the loss of the world’s...