“What lips my lips have kissed, and where and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning…”
The very first line introduces the subject of the poem. She describes herself thinking back on the lips she has kissed and why. The way she describes the lips, and birds in the next set of lines, represents concrete things in her past; beautiful, alive, and vibrant. Now they are only blurred visions which she can’t fully remember. Those who merely skim the poem would immediately think Millay was very promiscuous and had various affairs with young men. As she grows older her memories of her motives and actions fade.
“..but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, 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. “
The author creates a metaphor of lovers to that of rain, which creates the image of tears or wistful longing. “The rain is full of ghosts”, takes the place of people of her past that could be returning in her thoughts, hence the tapping upon the glass. The ghosts could also mean the loss of her loves. The ghosts come in the night, while raining to see if she remembers. The tapping upon the glass could mean the persistent thought the people and memories she has had with them. Since she cannot remember where or why anymore, if she continues to think of it, the memory just might come back to her. The thoughts pause and wait to see if there is a reply, but there is no recognition...