Listen, children:
Your father is dead.
From his old coats
I’ll make you little jackets;
I’ll make you little trousers
From his old pants.
There’ll be in his pockets
Things he used to put there,
Keys and pennies
Covered with tobacco;
Dan shall have the pennies
To save in his bank;
Anne shall have the keys
To make a pretty noise with.
Life must go on,
And the dead be forgotten;
Life must go on,
Though good men die;
Anne, eat your breakfast;
Dan, take your medicine;
Life must go on;
I forget just why.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem Lament

12 Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    I lost my dad when I was eleven. I carried this poem in my wallet for atleast 25 years since his death. It somehow comforted me during sad times. I retyped it and put it in a favorite place. I send to anyone who loses a parent. We do keep things to remember them by but continue our lives with their memories.

  2. Ashley says:

    I recently picked this poem to recite in speech class. It is so easy to read the that is portrayed through the words of Edna St. Vincent Millay. It struck me and Im guessing makes not only me but everyone else stop and take the time to remember that life will go on, no matter what hardships and trials we face. It emits hope and strength yet sorrow and mourning. Love it!

  3. Diana says:

    My teacher gave me this book to read just recently and I just happened to read this exact poem. I like the way that it is so simple but somehow catches your attention. I wonder what atually happened in the story and if the boy was actually sick.

  4. Sara & Kira says:

    sara- this was really good and true.

    Kira- I liked this poem because it is not lying because it shows that when something bad happens, you can not let it stall your life, like you said, Life must go on.

  5. Stefanie says:

    my brother actually introduced me to this poem when i was in 8th grade. i am now doing a project on good poetry and this is one of my main supporters on what a good poem should be. i also lost my mother at the age of seven, so the lines that say “life must go on and the dead be forgotten…life must go on , though good men die, life must go on, i forgot just why” stick with me whenver i think about her.

  6. John says:

    The first time I read it was in high school in the early 1960’s and I never forgot the last line. We lost our only child last year and the last line has often haunted me. I never remembered the name of the poem or poet. I am so thankful there is an internet! Even though the story the poem tells is very different than mine, somehow, at least for me, it also speaks perfectly to our suffering and loss.

  7. elizabeth says:

    I really like this poem. I came across it in one of my mothers books and it struck me. I just picked it to be the topic of a english project. I wonder what was going on in her life about the time that she wrote it.

  8. Kate says:

    I love this poem. First came across it in Megan Mullally’s album, the song was arranged by Jeff Blumenkrantz. The music conveys the same illusion of calmness.
    Makes me wonder about the line “Dan, take your medicine”. Did the dad die of the same illness the son has now? Or is it just going on with life still? Sigh. Love this poem. I want to paint it on something.

  9. Jean says:

    I became an Edna fan while in junior high school in the fifties. This was my first love of poetry and the pain this poem exudes has always haunted me. One of my favorite sayings is “life must go on, I forget just why.” It makes me take a deep breath, stand up a bit taller and carry on. Thank you, Edna.

  10. lynn says:

    So agree with victoria. first read this about 50 yrs ago. first & last line always stuck & something in the middle about making do. Given me much strength through hard times. As in “finding nemo”==just keep swimming!

  11. Jennifer says:

    Megan Mullally created a song using the lyrics of this poem. You might want to check it out. Megan Mullally has made several songs and has been inspired by Edna St. Vincent Millay and they are all very touching.

  12. victoria says:

    I have loved this poem ever since I first came across it in sixth grade. I think this is the first poem that ever really resonated with me. I love the way Millay preserves an appearance of calmness throughout the poem, then destroys it in that shocking last line. She conveys a wealth of emotion in such a simple piece.

Leave a Reply to Diana Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.