When I Too Long Have Looked Upon Your Face

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“When I too long have looked upon your face,” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

When I too long have looked upon your face,
Wherein for me a brightness unobscured
Save by the mists of brightness has its place,
And terrible beauty not to be endured,
I turn away reluctant from your light,
And stand irresolute, a mind undone,
A silly, dazzled thing deprived of sight
From having looked too long upon the sun.
Then is my daily life a narrow room
In which a little while, uncertainly,
Surrounded by impenetrable gloom,
Among familiar things grown strange to me
Making my way, I pause, and feel, and hark,
Till I become accustomed to the dark.

Within the fourteen lines of “When I too have looked upon your face,” Edna St. Vincent Millay beautifully demonstrates the powerful emotions and desires of true love. This English sonnet begins its first part with the speaker gazing upon the face of her lover. Within the lines, “When I too long have looked upon your face, wherein for me a brightness unobscured.” the reader becomes aware of true adoration: two people staring at and loving each other. Next, the speaker mentions her lover’s “terrible beauty,” and suggests that it is too much to tolerate. At first glance, the reader might infer that “terrible beauty” refers to unattractiveness; however, Edna is not referring to external beauty. She is simply saying that she has had enough of him. She is almost sick of being with him despite their true love. Furthermore, comparing herself to someone who has “looked too long upon the sun,” the speaker describes her feelings of aggravation and irritation further. These feelings, expressed in the first eight lines, then diverge and the sonnet changes direction. “Impenetrable gloom” surrounds the last six lines of this sonnet as the speaker describes her inner emotions when not with her lover. Her life alone becomes “a narrow room” in which she is miserable and unhappy. The speaker draws within herself, and becomes...
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