This is a short analysis of the poem What Lips my Lips have Kissed by Edna St Vincent Millay.
Now if you don’t know what a sonnet is, it means you haven’t gone through the original walkthrough from one to Edna St. Vincent Millay.
Sonnets on time does not bring relief, because in there we talk in a little bit of detail exactly what makes us on.
It’s such a special phone form of poetry.
So I encourage you to go through that one as well. What lips my lips have kissed is arguable as the most famous sonnet, if not her most famous poem.
It’s a really beautiful poem, and it deals with one of the major themes in all of the poetry.
But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. So let’s just read it first.
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; 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.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.
Well, those are some of the most haunting closing lines to any poem in the English language.
I only know that some are saying and me a little while the enemy sings no more.
This poem is beautiful and famous because it deals with one of the major themes of poetry, and that is the brevity of life, you know, the realization that life is short.
But not only that, this poem does such a good job of pointing out that the things in life that really make life worth living are even briefer.
They’re so fleeting, and oftentimes, when they fade away, we can’t even really point to exactly how they faded away, or what led up to them being gone.
We just wake up one morning with the realization that Oh, wow, that season of my life was over.
This poem, calls to mind other similar poems like Robert Herrick’s famous poem that’s quoted in the movie Dead Poets Society, where he says, gather You rosebuds, while you may, old time is still a-flying, and this same flower that smiles today, tomorrow will be dying.
Now, it’s that haunting nature of the impermanence and brevity of the things that really make life worth living.
And it’s important not to read this poem the wrong way, because Edna starts off in a strange fashion, where she says, What lips my lips have kissed, and where and why I have forgotten.
It kind of makes you wonder, like, Wow, I didn’t know that was allowed. One night nightstands.
You can’t even remember all the people, you had relationships with her all the people you kissed.
But that’s not really what she’s lamenting in this poem.
What she’s lamenting is, first of all, that season of her life, that she took so much joy in the season of youthful love, that it came to an end.
But not only did it come to an end, it came to an end in such a way that she didn’t even realize it was fading away until it was already gone.
She woke up one morning, or maybe just came to the realization one day that, wow, this season of my life is over.
I don’t know how it happened. I don’t know when it happened.
I just know that it’s gone now. And it’s not coming back.
You know, that’s why she ends the poem with I cannot say what loves have come and gone.
I only know that some are saying in me a little while that in me sings no more.
And that’s the real tragedy because it shows how we are as human beings.
You know, you hear parents say similar sentiments all the time.
Things like my kids grew up so fast. I don’t know when it happened.
It felt like I blinked and they were adults, you know. And then they lament and say, I wish I would have taken more time to be with them. And just be in the moment because they’re grown.
They’re not going back to becoming little kids. And that’s the real tragedy because that’s how human beings are with the things that we most cherished.
You know, we don’t realize when they’re slipping away.
Then once they’re gone, one day, it just strikes us, you know, like with Edna, where she was struck by the fact that that whole season of her life was gone.
She looked back and she said, I don’t know how I got here.
I don’t know when it faded away, did it fade away day by day, or all at once. It’s just gone. And I know it’s not coming back, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
So that’s really what is most haunting about the impermanence of beauty and the brevity of the things that make life most worth living.
It’s not just that they end but oftentimes they end in such a way that it just leaves us reeling because we just realize it one day, it’s gone and it’s not coming back. So this is just such a beautiful poem.
I love the way that she likens yourself to the tree, you know, that beautiful word picture that she gives us were in winter, the tree, you know, doesn’t know when the birds leave one by one to go south, right?
It doesn’t say oh, there’s another one off to Florida and Oh, there goes one to Arizona, right?
It just knows the song has gone one day, there’s just no more song, right? And knows its bows more silent than before.
And that’s how she says human beings are when, you know we’re losing those things that we most cherished, that were like the tree and winter.
We don’t really know what we’re losing until it’s already gone.
So this poem is so beautiful because it really highlights what’s most tragic about the impermanence of beauty and meaning is just the fact that oftentimes.
We lose it in such a way that we don’t realize it until it’s already gone. So I hope you really enjoyed this poem.