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Edna St. Vincent Millay - 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.

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Added: Feb 21 2003 | Viewed: 1912 times | Comments and analysis of First Fig by Edna St. Vincent Millay Comments (10)

First Fig - Comments and Information

Poet: Edna St. Vincent Millay
Poem: First Fig

Comment 10 of 10, added on March 11th, 2011 at 12:47 AM.
First Fig

There is perhaps another perspective worth considering. Is this poem truly intended to be a celebration of a life that burns brightly for friend and foe to see; albeit moving much too quickly toward an end. Or Perhaps, it may that she is revealing her angst concerning the brevity of life and the impending darkenss of the unknown (death). A darkness that would appear even darker when the brighter light of a candle burning at both ends has been spent. In her day, when you retired for the night and blew out the candle, you were enveloped by the darkness of your room, a disquieting moment prior to falling away into sleep. Most poets, e.g. Frost, Sanburg, etc. place as much emphasis on the brevity and ending of life as they do the living of life. I feel a certain degree of angst, when reading this poem and that may be its intent; her actual purpose in penning it!

Dave from United States
Comment 9 of 10, added on September 28th, 2010 at 5:16 PM.
"My candle burns at both ends..."

Well, Ms. St. Vincent Millay may not have written the first line as "I burn my candle at both ends...," but she should have, since with that wording it scans perfectly in iambic tetrameter, whereas the wording she chose does not scan at all, though the addition of one word, "its," as in "My candle burns at both its ends..." would have corrected the flaw in poetics, and would have made the entire poem formally consistent: a line of iambic tetrameter, a line of iambic trimeter, another line of iambic tetrameter, and a final line of iambic trimeter. Neat, symmetrical and, to my ear, esthetically pleasing.

Conway Redding from United States
Comment 8 of 10, added on May 26th, 2006 at 8:04 AM.

My Mother always told me that this was my father's favorite poem and he lived his life just this way. A tea planter in Darjeeling for 20 years until partition, he died young at 45. I choose to subscribe to the philosophy I see expressed in this marvelous poem too.

Peter from China

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