Be to her, Persephone,
All the things I might not be:
Take her head upon your knee.
She that was so proud and wild,
Flippant, arrogant and free,
She that had no need of me,
Is a little lonely child
Lost in Hell,—Persephone,
Take her head upon your knee:
Say to her, “My dear, my dear,
It is not so dreadful here.”

Analysis, meaning and summary of Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem Prayer To Persephone


  1. Terry Tryon says:

    This poem is a fragment of a larger work, “Memorial to D.C.” There are six poems in the work, an introduction and five others, each addressing a tradition of honoring and mourning the dead. There is an epitaph, a prayer {this poem}, a chorus, a dirge, and an elegy. In each of the poems, Millay puts forth admiration for the talents, the beauty, and the grace of the dead girl, but she also describes her as vain, superficial, and haughty. And thus, because Millay is honest in sharing her complete assessment of D.C., however ambivalent, we know her feelings of grief are genuine. The intensity of Millay’s loss reverberates throughout the series of poems.

  2. Will Craig says:

    I love abi…abi is my life. I think i’ll read this at our wedding…i sneeze too much

  3. Isabel says:

    I am not big on poetry, but this has been my favorite poem since I was 14. It’s not just about Millay’s friend in particular. It’s also about mothers and daughters, and how as a child gets older, a mother can’t protect her from everything.
    Persephone’s mother was Demeter, goddess of spring. She was so sad that her daughter was stolen away to the underworld that she made the world cold and lifeless for 6 months out of the year.

  4. Tiffany says:

    I would like to feature your poem in a fan fiction about Harry Potter that I am writing. May I?

  5. sabine buechers says:

    Millay wrote this poem when she was young and as part of a series of poems, all for a female friend who had died. As you will note, it is a plea for protection by Persephone – here as the domina of the underworld – for her friend who is clearly picture as a young girl who seemed, in her earthly life quite sure of herself but is now in an unknown world and may not have that same confidence – meaning that before her death it may all have been an act or just a wish. The lost friend becomes thus a symbol for youth in itself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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.