WE were very tired, we were very merry­
We had gone back and forth all night on 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 a 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 pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

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


  1. STU LEWIS says:

    I have read a number of comments on this site, and I am reminded of the adage that “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” We don’t need to get into Freudian symbolism here. As someone else commented, they were on a “cheap date.” Though many people don’t have a lot of money when they are young, when they reach middle age and are more successful, they become nostalgic for the carefree days of youth. I remember a number of years ago reminiscing with some college friends, when one of them asked, “How could we be so happy with so little money?” This phenomenon may be one of the reasons that the opera “La Boheme” is so popular.

  2. Catherine says:

    I think the poem has a very sexual overtone. If you read the ferry ride as the act of love making back and forth to and fro, the exhaustion, the fruit, the newspaper is knowledge, you get a very specific theme. Perhaps it was their first time, but they definiately were in love, anyone agree with me?

  3. ashley says:

    actually its about how no matter where the place, whether great or not the couple is just glad to be with each other. obviously. if it smells like a stable its not a romantic setting, but the couple is happy just to be with each other and in love. towards the end they get so happy that they want to spread it. they do so by giving the lady money and fruit.

  4. Colin says:

    Edward K has the gist of it! It is first and foremost a New York experience. The ferry ride cost a nickel, each way – lovers could spend hours in New York harbor watching the stars and skyline for virtually no outlay. Even though the Ferry was public transportation, riders were sparse at night – granting a degree of privacy, and even intimacy despite it being “Bare and bright” They’re overflowing joy of being with each other spills over, by chance, to an early morning denizen of the streets, who I’m sure was unprepared for the gaeity with which their minimal but whole-hearted philanthropy was bestowed. The couple was wise enough to retain subway fare home (survival 101 in NYC)

  5. Kyle says:

    I feel that Gabriella’s thoughts on the poem are what I also see. Although, my teacher made faces when I used it in my presentation of this poem. But, for example, the part “It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable.” I think that isn’t literal but more symmbolic for their boredom and that it stank and was not much fun.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The meaning i get from this poem is completely different, and you may call me crazy, but at least appreciate my thought process. I think the poem is about immigrants when they arrive in this country on
    Staten Island, and the handlers who help them cross. The fruit~symbolizes the fruit of America, they’re not sure where they got it,but they have it. The sun is a bucket of gold. Perhaps the golden opportunity, a beacon of light in a new land. The shawl covered head represents an immigrant woman they helped on the ferry, and she thanks them for the fruit, the opportunity. And finally they gave her all their money because their help was the richest gift to give.

  7. Ryan says:

    I agree with everyone else on the fact that the peom is about two people spending time together, but it seems that everyone is missing the last stanza. “And She wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and pears,/ And we gave her all out money but our subway fares.” It seems to me that they were doing a favor for some old woman. They gave all their money to hear and apples and pears they bought. They spent time together while doing something nice for someone else.

  8. gabriella says:

    Today I read this poem for the fist time in my English class. It really reached out to me in a way that I am unable to fully express. It was just so easy for me to elaborate how I felt about this poem when the teacher inquired. I will have to agree, but only to a certain extent. Do you not think that this poem could even be talking about two guys? Absurd? Maybe. But I think that the relationship between these two people are very platonic and that their is no sign or motive to state that it is a “couple” involved in a romantic way so to say. It seems to me these two know eachother so well and have a way with one another that they are able to enjoy eachother’s company in any circumstance. It does not matter that they had to ride a ferry all day, I mean it was exaughsting. These two had one another to look past that and make the best out of a night that did not seem to be a rendevous. It is the times like these in life that you truly appreciate the little things. Everyweight is taken off of you when you have someone to easily confide in and can put you at ease the way this friendship couple could.

  9. anna says:

    this poem is about the relationship of 2 lovers, enjoying what is known as a ‘cheap date’ (the ferry rides are free) b/c this couple is poor and overworked. it is a celebration of a poor couple’s experience, mentally, physically, and sexually.

  10. Bessyba says:

    Actually, this poem is about two male friends who thought that WW1 had just ended. They were too tired to sleep so they went out and celebrated.

  11. Amber says:

    Now, I am still a high school senior, so I admit I am no expert on interpreting poetry. I agree with everyone’s comments about this poem being about spending time with that special someone. But I got something else from it as well. Couldn’t it also be about making the best out of a not so great situation? She complains about having to ride the ferry back and forth all night long; however she concentrates on the high points of the trip for a majority of the poem. Does anyone agree?

  12. Shanethia says:

    Recuerdo is a great poem about memory or rememberance as well as being or sharing a night with your lover.

  13. andrew says:

    this poem pinpoints what love is all about most days you just spend time with your lover you dont always do something incredible if your lover can share a pair with you and your both happy that is special!

  14. Edward Kickham says:

    Recuerdo is a beautiful ballad of a poem full of the concrete New York imagery that marks much of Millay’s work. It’s an optimistic, romantic description of lovers who spend a night just being with one another. Perhaps they recently met. It is very distinct from the sad, regretful, even cynical tone of much of Millay’s other work

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