Not in a silver casket cool with pearls
Or rich with red corundum or with blue,
Locked, and the key withheld, as other girls
Have given their loves, I give my love to you;
Not in a lovers’-knot, not in a ring
Worked in such fashion, and the legend plain—
Semper fidelis, where a secret spring
Kennels a drop of mischief for the brain:
Love in the open hand, no thing but that,
Ungemmed, unhidden, wishing not to hurt,
As one should bring you cowslips in a hat
Swung from the hand, or apples in her skirt,
I bring you, calling out as children do:
“Look what I have!—And these are all for you.”
This has always been my favorite sonnet…the symbolism of the pearls, corundum red and blue–jewels of great monetary worth; the lover’s knot/ring locked and the key withheld–items that are closed and not accessible to the loved one; no hidden eternal promises to tantalize the loved one; none of these things are how she loves or what she offers her love! Nothing but love in the open hand, no gems, not sought after, kind and beneficent, given as a child gives flowers or shares the apples she has just finished picking, Look what I have! and these are all for you…
What more is there to “love?” Sincere, fresh, pure…not manipulative.
It may not be received in the same spirit, but if i give in that spirit, then i have lived fully to the dictates of my conscience!
Thank you Edna St. Vincent Millay for speaking this so exquisitely!
this is a very nice poem- but the symbolism is too confusing- o well i can just get over it.
I have found that most people are afraid to show you exactly what you have to offer them. This poem explains me, to a “T”. Unfortunately, most people see the apples in the skirt and run screaming, into the night. Pity.