Let them bury your big eyes
In the secret earth securely,
Your thin fingers, and your fair,
Soft, indefinite-colored hair,—
All of these in some way, surely,
From the secret earth shall rise;
Not for these I sit and stare,
Broken and bereft completely;
Your young flesh that sat so neatly
On your little bones will sweetly
Blossom in the air.

But your voice,—never the rushing
Of a river underground,
Not the rising of the wind
In the trees before the rain,
Not the woodcock’s watery call,
Not the note the white-throat utters,
Not the feet of children pushing
Yellow leaves along the gutters
In the blue and bitter fall,
Shall content my musing mind
For the beauty of that sound
That in no new way at all
Ever will be heard again.

Sweetly through the sappy stalk
Of the vigorous weed,
Holding all it held before,
Cherished by the faithful sun,
On and on eternally
Shall your altered fluid run,
Bud and bloom and go to seed;
But your singing days are done;
But the music of your talk
Never shall the chemistry
Of the secret earth restore.
All your lovely words are spoken.
Once the ivory box is broken,
Beats the golden bird no more.

2 Comments

  1. Mike Andrews says:

    I encountered the last couplet of this poem in 1983, shortly after
    the suicide of a very close, very dear friend. It fit the situation
    and my thoughts perfectly, and when I finally managed to track
    the entire poem down, I was amazed at how much my thoughts
    and the poet’s ran in parallel. This is an amazingly poignant
    work.

  2. C. Smith says:

    I first read this poem as a sophomore in high school and soon after the death of a precious 16-year-old friend of mine. The poem reminded me so much of her, the big eyes and slender fingers, and, perhaps especially, her melodious voice. While the poem offers hope for life beyond the grave, Edna St. Vincent Millay expresses a sadness concerning the fact that her voice is forever quieted in death. “All your lovely words are spoken,” she writes. The final two lines are the ones that have haunted me over the years, however, and have drawn me to this poem once again, nearly forty years after the death of my friend. I miss her still.

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