What Lips My Lips Have Kissed

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Marya Williams
English 120
Professor Israel
Written assignment 2
23 October 2012

Analysis of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s

“What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why”

The poem entitled [What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why] by Edna St. Vincent Millay, is a very forward thinking sonnet of its time. Most sonnets are dedicated or about one single person. This one in particular is about the memory of several lovers. This poem is written in iambic pentameter, with a rhyme scheme of abbaacdecde. The fist part of this poem is an octave, leaving the second half to be a sestet, which follows the traditional format of an Italian sonnet. Millay in this poem uses wonderful imagery and metaphors to communicate an overall theme of change in her life.

The speaker in this poem is reminiscent on her younger, more promiscuous years of her life. The very title and first line of this sonnet is “ what lips my lips have kissed, and where, and when, and why/I have forgotten.” From the beginning it is apparent the persona of this poem is speaking directly to her audience. She tells of past lovers she had kissed in her youth but now whom she has forgotten. The next line she states “what arms have lain under my head till morning” the words “till morning in the line suggest her encounters were one night stands ass opposed to fully developed relationships. Considering the poem was written in 1925, we know the speaker must have had these relationships in the very early 1900’s. An era, where it was very uncommon for women to be sleeping around, at least women with any sort of status or respect. This is not to say Millay, or the speaker in her sonnet was a whore. It is just an example of how ahead of its time this sonnet is. She opens the next line by saying :“the rain is full of ghosts tonight,” the ghosts she is referring to are her past lovers. She refers to them s ghosts because while they are no longer present in her life, their spirit and...
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