Chaos in Fourteen Lines

Topics: Poetry, Sonnet, Muse Pages: 3 (920 words) Published: April 25, 2006
Chaos in Fourteen Lines
The poem "I will put Chaos into fourteen lines" by Edna St. Vincent Millay has to do with Chaos's epic struggle to free itself from the bondage of the prison of fourteen lines and its ultimate defeat to Order. However, upon closer inspection, the poem appears to be an ars poetica that describes the process of writing fixed form poetry and all the trials that come with expressing poetry in words.

The question and the goal of the poem is spelled out in the first line with Millay declaring that she will trap Chaos into fourteen lines and let him struggle to escape. Chaos gives a great struggle, but is defeated in the end despite his "adroit designs" and "arrogance." He is somehow confined in an arbitrarily small space and is then bounded and assimilated by Order. After Chaos's assimilation, a confession out of Chaos, but Millay will instead merely "make him good." This cannot actually happen, as Chaos is a condition of great disorder, or in Greek mythology, the first god that spawned the universe. Upon closer reading, the poem actually seems to be about poetry itself and there are a few elements that actually illustrate chaos in the poem.

Structurally, there isn't anything chaotic about the poem. The sonnet is broken down into two parts: an octave followed by a sestet that resolves the issue at hand. However, the last two lines in the sonnet can be interpreted as an unrhymed couplet, contributing to the "chaos" that Millay claimed to trap. The order of the sonnet is in

Yang 2
the rhyme scheme of ABBAABBA CDCDCD, which is classically Italian in terms of rhyming pattern. Classically, the octave forms a question, in this case, putting Chaos into fourteen lines. The meter in this poem is predominantly iambic pentameter, but uses a few strong words to describe Chaos's struggle to escape order. It is ironic to use such orderly meter to write since the goal of the sonnet is to contain chaos. What is more ironic is that writer is...
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