My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends ­
It gives a lovely light!

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


  1. Prof. Dr. Visam Mansur says:

    I always advise my students to differentiate between the personal life of the poets/authors and their fictitious personae. In Millay’s text, there is no linguistic evidence as to the the gender identity of the speaker: this is to say the speaker can be male or female. Also there is no evidence that the poet is talking about herself.
    In the absence of gender indicators, the text could point to either a male speaker boasting of the joys of indulgence in penile and anal sexual activities “both ends”, or a female speaker receiving the light through two out of three corporeal apertures “both ends” : oral, vaginal or anal.

  2. Yuri says:

    I never saw the bi reference….

  3. jack says:

    coments her bi-sexuality but it cannot last forever as nothing can but while it is alive and she is alive and we are alive we can let our spirits or our being shine befoe all mankind

  4. Tina says:

    The poem refers to Millay being bisexual, and her unusual lifestyle. She is saying she will do as she pleases, for life is to short to not to enjoy it the its fullest.

  5. Benjamin says:

    From poem of the week blogspot:

    Edna St. Vincent Millay was born in Rockland, ME in 1892. Her fourth book of poetry, The Harp Weaver, earned her the Pulitzer Prize. She was openly bi, which sheds some light on the otherwise mysterious title here.

  6. joe huyt says:

    this poem is not about figs!

  7. Milan says:

    The title “First Fig” has stong biblical symbolism. The tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden was really the fig tree and its friut was forbidden. Before Adam and Eve tasted of the “fruit of knowldege” they were to live forever in the Gardem. As a punishment for disobeying God and eating of the fig they were banished from the Garden and were to suffer in life and forfit their immortality. There is also a reference to carnal knowledge.
    With the eating of

  8. Kimberly says:

    Sherri or anyone,
    Maybe you can tell me why it is called “First Fig?”

  9. Ronnok says:

    I agree with Sherri Araujo. Her interpretation of the poem is what I believe the poem’s message is. I’ve never read First Fig, but this is the saying Roald Dahl lived by and I found it on the inside back-cover of one of his books.

  10. Reed says:

    I really liked it when Norman recites this poem to his brother and his fluzie girl friend at the bar. All the characters were burning their candles at both ends – but Norman was the only one sophisticated enough to realize it.

  11. Sherri Araujo says:

    “My candle burns at both ends;”
    —From the moment you’re born you’re dieing. At the beginning of life your “candle” is lit and with each passing day the wick gets shorter and shorter, because this candle is lit on two ends. One of life and one of death.
    “It will not last the night;”
    — No one can honestly say how long we will live. We can only hope that are time on earth will be plentiful and that we get to truely experience life with those people we care about.
    “But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—”
    —Without friends and enemies life is nothing. It is not interesting or challenging or even enlightening. And although our time is short we still pass each day with our friends close and enemies closer.
    “It gives a lovely light!”
    —Some people such as Ryan, whom I read about above, make life so meaningful and beautiful in the short time they are here. They make it worth while and show what the true meaning of life are about. Without people like Ryan we would not understand the meaning of love and life. After reading about him and reading this poem over again I realized that life is to short to waist away and that you should embrace life while you have it. Because just as glass, life can so easily be shattered. After reading “First Fig” so much can be learned about love and life from just four stanzas. And so much more can be learned from the actions that you partake in, in this short, wonderful, and meaningful time.

  12. R.A.F. says:

    Ryan was an active child and a very athletic teen. He was a fantastic soccer player, even playing for Teams USA. He played in seven countries and witnessed sites many of us only dream about, all before he was 18.

    Ryan graduated from Purdue University in 1995 as an Engineer. He learned among many things scholarly, a desire to drink. As with many college students today the party never ends.

    The party ended for Ryan in February, 2004, when he died of complications to Liver disease. He was a good son, and a very happy man. This poem describes him to a tee, it’s my favorite, I think of it allot, I think of my son who lit his candle at both ends, and he was so much my shining light.

  13. Kevin Flores says:

    I think this poem is the best I heard in all my life I hope i can show it to my friends.

  14. Jackie says:

    I read this poem as a child in selection of Millay’s poems called Poems for Young People. It is one of my favorite poems ever. The complexity of Millay’s work continues to intrigue me.

  15. Lisa says:

    This poem has always had a significant meaning in my life. I was raised by my step-dad, and he loved to read me poems when I was younger. This one was his favorite to me. I never really understood what it meant, but I knew that it’s meaning was profound. My dad recently passed away, and this is the poem that will be on his tombstone.

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