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Analysis and comments on First Fig by Edna St. Vincent Millay

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Comment 10 of 14, 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 14, 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 14, 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
Comment 7 of 14, added on April 18th, 2006 at 11:11 PM.

Since Millay begins (and ends)this memorable poem with the third person (
"my candle" and "it,") I sense that she discovers it burning at both ends.
She doesn't consciously turn it downside-up to light it there herself. The
poem does not begin with "I burn my candle..." It burns itself on both
ends, and the author, somewhat detached and regarding it, decides that this
odd occurrence is not a bad thing. In fact, it is the candle she is given
to carry, and she holds it up for all to see. It is her candle. She
learns to love it, naturally.

Bruce from United States
Comment 6 of 14, added on February 20th, 2006 at 11:02 PM.

I've always thought of this as a poem on the consequence of excess.
Candles work best when burnt from one end. Best is good. Light for a long
time is good. Never does she intimate that one cannot have brillance and
longevity. After all, isn't that the goal, or a first step?

Michael from United States
Comment 5 of 14, added on July 4th, 2005 at 3:25 PM.

the most important statement millay makes is that her candle burns at both
ends. would that each of us were able to burn that brightly all the time.
and if we were able to achieve that end would the energy required to expend
it cause us to burn out? i think it would.

garrett from United States

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Information about First Fig

Poet: Edna St. Vincent Millay
Poem: First Fig
Added: Feb 21 2003
Viewed: 3879 times

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