By: Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)
To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.
“Spring” is a powerful free verse poem written by Edna St. Vincent Millay, in 1921 . At first glance, this poem does not seem extremely meaningful. However, the time during which it was written, explains the poem's true importance because it is after World War. It contains figurative language, specifically describing post war trauma. The tone and mood enforce the element of war to a greater extent. The atmosphere created by the author is vague, but looking deeply into the metaphorical language, allows you to truly understand the casualties. In the poem “Spring” written by Edna St. Vincent Millay, war is cruel and indescribable.
In quatrain three, line three, Millay writes, “Not only under ground are the brains of men.” This depicts the battlefield. The author explains that as spring arrives, the reality of the war is forgotten. Citizens continue with their lives, forgetting about the casualties. The nice weather comes, but it should have never covered up the war. The author is also upset. She is angry regarding the month of April. Millay is trying to ask what the point of Spring is, after the death of so many. The bright flowers, the warm sun and the nice breeze are useless when there is no one to admire them.
On another note, the written part of the poem consists of four quatrains and one couplet. Three lines of each quatrain are end-stopped, while the remaining one is enjambed. In the couplet, one line is enjamed and the other is end-stopped. In the first two quatrains, the author is unsatisfied. Millay could be indecisive about the month of April. However, the remainder of the poem identifies that she is frustrated with society. The last two lines of the fourth quatrain explain this theory. She is identifying life as pointless and useless. Millay may not believe in war and is angered by it. The couplet enforces this prediction even more. The tone of the last line indicates her frustration, anger and irritation. The rhythm is irregular with no specific rhyme scene. However, this free verse poem has a pattern similar to Shakespearean poems; the first eight lines are talking about a subject, which builds up to contradict against the rest of the poem. In this case, for the first eight lines, the poet discusses the climate and nature during April, and then contrasts it to war for the rest of the poem.
There are some lines in this poem, which are metaphors and have symbolism. For example, the last two lines of the fourth quatrain. The “empty cup, ” symbolizes the future. It explains our future to be nothing. This is also a metaphor because it compares life to an empty cup. Fighting will lead to nothing. This is the hidden message in this line. The atmosphere of the poem always relates back to war. There is a lot of imagery in the poem. For example, line four of the first quatrain. The reader can imagine the tiny leaves opening slowly, as the day goes by. This makes it a form of imagery. In the third line of the third quatrain, the author is referring to a place known as ‘No Man's Land.' This is the land between two trenches that all soldiers feared, because of death, due to exploding shells.
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The entire poem is cacophonic. “The sun is hot /the spikes of the crocus /eaten by maggots ,” are all unpleasant phrases. These expressions helped create the tone, which is war and casualties. This poem is unique in another sense as well. The author is speaking to the season, which is quite preposterous. The last line of this poem is another unique phrase. The author personifies April. He remarks on April as knowing nothing. It just comes and brings some useless flowers, thinking that all will become well; these shall not be accepted because of the war. The poem was an understatement because truly looking at just the text, line eleven was the only sentence, which talked about the victims.
Millay has chosen her words extremely carefully when writing this poem. She vaguely describes the true meaning and theme of this literature. What I mean by this is that, without a biography, it would be difficult to infer the true theme of this poem. War is embedded in the specific language and the result is a truly unique poem. The precise symbolism has true meaning when deeply investigated. An illusion has been created by the title of “Spring” giving this poem an even greater twist. “Spring” by Edna St. Vincent Millay is about war and the results; an inhospitable environment with casualties and no future.
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