Poetry Analysis | “Love is not all” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Love poetry has always attracted attention of readers due to the uniqueness of style, form and sensibility. Love poems and sonnets tell much about love and help readers to better understand the meaning of love in human life. Love poetry makes readers enjoy lyrical forms, expressing personal feelings regarding the theme of love, separation, loneliness, regret and loss. The common theme of sonnets is love. Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sonnets reflect the poetess’ feelings, emotions, desires and dreams. Actually, the theme of love is predominant in the works of many poets. Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poetry is no exception. Her poetry is lyrical and appealing. She expresses not only lovers’ joys, but also lovers’ sorrows. One of her most impressive love poems is “Love is not all” (1931). Actually, “Love is not all” is a fine sonnet written in the style of Shakespeare’s sonnets. The poem is really full of poetic melody that affects readers’ imagination and interpretation. Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poetry is self-reflective influenced by the poetess’ romantic nature and amazing sonnet forms. The poetess employs proof by contradiction to persuade readers of the significance of love.

Edna St. Vincent Millay uses her own approach to explanation of the theme of love. The poetess does not describe love as a universally accepted feeling of magnitude experienced by human beings. She uses amazing figurative language and some adorable conventions of the true Shakespearean sonnets, making some insignificant alterations. In the first lines of the poem “Love Is Not All”, Millay shows that love is vagarious, as

Love is not all: It is not meat nor drink

Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain,

Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink

and rise and sink and rise and sink again .

 

The poetess uses indirect theme and abrupt change in her poetic message in order to add more emphasis to the overall meaning of the poem. According to Edna St. Vincent Millay, love is not magic, because it does not have any supernatural qualities or powers. She writes,

Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath

Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;

Nevertheless, love has an enormous impact on human life, because this feeling can help to escape from death, enhancing ambitions in life. Without love people suffer greatly. She writes,

Yet many a man is making friends with death

even as I speak, for lack of love alone.

Then, the poetess uses her own examples about love experience and proves the fact that there is nothing in the world that could force her to give away the feeling of love or the memory of the love night. Millay knows the price of love and wants her readers to cherish love as well. She writes,

I might be driven to sell your love for peace,

 Or trade the memory of this night for food.

 It may well be. I do not think I would.

 

Overall, the sonnet “Love is not all” is about the feeling of love, but the poetess does not utilize conventional Petrarchan conception to talk about the experience of love. Millay prefers to writes about love from a different perspective, which refers to a more realistic and easy-to-understand context that many people can relate to. The poetess employs many stylistic devices that make her language vivid and memorable. She is focused on emotional interplay, employing metaphors and imagery. Some of the metaphors are “Love is not all: It is not meat nor drink Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain”, “Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath”, “might be driven to sell your love for peace”, irony “Yet many a man is making friends with death”, epithets “in a difficult hour”, “the thickened lung”, alliteration “for lack of love alone”, anaphora “not meat nor drink Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain; Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink”, antithesis “And rise and sink and rise and sink again”, and some other stylistics devices.

The poetess’ key technique in this sonnet is indirection or proof by contradiction that helps to make an enormous impact on readers. Millay starts her sonnet with the statement “Love is not all”, and then she moves on to tell that it is wrong. In other words, Millay clears the way for a powerful and convincing assertion that love is all in human life.

Thus, it is necessary to conclude that Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sonnet “Love is not all” deserves admiration as the poetess reflects her own interpretation of the theme of love in poetry. Love is essential for human soul, although some one may think that love is useless for human body. Millay’s poem conveys the message about the unnecessary and impractical use of love in human lives, but eventually, the poetess expresses her desire to keep love alive within human society, despite its irrationality and uselessness. Love is essential for humanity. Edna St. Vincent Millay uses her logic and proves her ideas by contradiction. This form of persuasion is really very effective.

 

Works Cited

Millay, Edna St. Vincent. “Love is not all” in The Selected Poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Random House Publishing Group, 2012. Print.

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016.

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

freeessays.club (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
Available at:

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]
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