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April 11 poem rec, First and Second Fig - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
April 11 poem rec, First and Second Fig
I think everyone knows "First Fig," by Edna St. Vincent Millay (if not by name, you'd know it at sight), but looking it up to rec it, I found "Second Fig," which kind of completes it with the same theme.

First Fig
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!

Second Fig
Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

These are probably bad life philosophies if you want to end up successful, but I think Millay really captures the beauty of the inherently ephemeral here. I'm personally more of a "Well, why not build the pretty house on the solid rock?" girl myself and think a lot of what's ugly is what's built on sand, but I do like poems that can make me see the world from this kind of wild, who-cares-about-next-year point of view.


17 comments or Leave a comment
camry_1 From: camry_1 Date: April 11th, 2006 07:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for pointing these out. I hadn't heard the second before, and the two together really capture the whole "live hard, die young" philosophy. Is that the thought behind this new icon?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 11th, 2006 07:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
I made a bunch of new "mood" icons, starting with a "yikes!" one for journalfen and then dreamy and amused. Figured I should use them. ;)
erised1810 From: erised1810 Date: April 11th, 2006 07:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
and al lher work is publicdomain. so on gutenberg.net al lher stuf is intext files.
yay for addign afew poet to my to-read list.
gabrielladusult From: gabrielladusult Date: April 11th, 2006 07:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I hadn't heard the second before either -- the first reminds me of Sirius today.
leapin_jot From: leapin_jot Date: April 11th, 2006 08:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
I hadn't heard of either before. I like them. So is this where the expression, "Burning the candle from both ends" comes from?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 11th, 2006 08:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm honestly not sure if it's where the expression comes from, or if Millay was riffing on an existing expression.
leapin_jot From: leapin_jot Date: April 11th, 2006 08:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
According to this website it was already in use. :) I love finding out word trivia.
matril From: matril Date: April 11th, 2006 08:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Those are nice, pithy poems, things you could quote like aphorisms. Though, of course, not the wisest morals to live by. ;) Nevertheless, I think I will memorize them, just for fun.
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: April 11th, 2006 10:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I know I've read both before but I'd forgotten the second... thanks for reminding me!! I've loved the first since the moment I first encountered it. :)
purple_ladybug1 From: purple_ladybug1 Date: April 11th, 2006 11:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like the poems. They're lighthearted.

Your new icon is cute!
keestone From: keestone Date: April 12th, 2006 12:45 am (UTC) (Link)
I love Edna St. Vincent Millay.
annburlingham From: annburlingham Date: April 12th, 2006 03:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Heh. There's a Millay collection for children that I found in the Perry high school library circa 1978 and took out partly because it was an orphan - nobody had checked it out in about twelve years. That was where I read both Figs and "The blue flag in the bog" and "to a not impossible him" and the one about housekeeping (possibly called "Housekeeping") and so many more. I was in love with her stuff for an age after, and have many a volume I collected into my late twenties.

Oh, ah - and Recuerdo!


We were very tired, we were very merry --
We had gone back and forth all night upon the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable --
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on the hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry --
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed, "Good morrow, mother!" to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, "God bless you!" for the apples and the pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 12th, 2006 03:42 am (UTC) (Link)
nobody had checked it out in about twelve years.

Rueful sigh. No trouble believing that.

I do like Millay--she's a very playful poet who seemed to take a lot of joy in her life. Or at least in her poetry. I haven't read all of it, but I enjoy what I have read.
swatkat24 From: swatkat24 Date: April 12th, 2006 03:53 am (UTC) (Link)
God I adore these! I couldn't live like that - but there'll always be a part of me that wishes it could.
faeriemaiden From: faeriemaiden Date: April 12th, 2006 03:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I love you for reccing Edna St. Vincent Millay; I fell in love with her recently through the poem Dirge Without Music, which has become the basis for a ridiculously long and time-consuming "short-story" fic. (Ha!)

I read The Great Gatsby several weeks ago, and "Second Fig" reminds me of that--of the Roaring Twenties and the rich and young and reckless and arrogant. Interesting. Thank you for sharing!
sea_thoughts From: sea_thoughts Date: April 12th, 2006 05:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I didn't realise there was a "Second Fig", thanks for posting it! I burn the candle at both ends but build my houses upon rock. Is that weird? :3 "First Fig" is one of my favourite poems.
sea_thoughts From: sea_thoughts Date: April 12th, 2006 05:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Here's an Millay poem that I like. Often describes my feelings.


I, being born a woman and distressed
By all the needs and notions of my kind,
Am urged by your propinquity to find
Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
To bear your body's eight upon my breast:
So subtly is the fume of life designed,
To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
And leave me once again undone, possessed.
Think not for this, however, the poor treason
Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
I shall remember you with love, or season
My scorn with pity, - let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.
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