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What Lips My Lips Have Kissed

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Sarah Gaunt

on 17 October 2013

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Transcript of What Lips My Lips Have Kissed

What Lips My Lips Have Kissed
(Sonnet XLIII)
by Edna St Vincent Millay
Title:
When first reading the title, it seems as if the speaker is in love and happy. The title makes the readers assume the speaker will be reminiscing about her man.

Interpretative Title:
After understanding the poem, one can interpret the meaning of the title. The title does not hint of meaningful love but rather reduces the men to simply a kiss. Instead of just reminiscing, she is actually pondering.

Speaker:

The speaker is a lonely lady. The speaker could possible be Edna St. Vincent because it is written as if it were from a diary.

Figurative Language:
Millay utilizes imagery of the rain to sense that the speaker is has no warmth,love. The ghosts are the men that haunt her because they call upon her memory, but she cannot remember them, Millay uses metaphors to illustrate the speaker's feelings. The speaker is the lonely tree who is desolate and alone,and the birds are the men that have left as birds would leave to hibernate. By calling the tree lonely, she is using personification to describe the speaker's emotions. She then uses summer as a metaphor for her true love that actually made her happy, but it did not last. She says, "summer sang in her" (line 13) which is also personification. The speaker felt alive, joyous, and in love when she was with the one man that mattered. Millay uses the seasons, winter and summer, to mirror her spirits. The winter symbolizes her solitude while summer symbolizes her bliss.



Speaker:
The speaker in this poem is a lonely older woman who is thinking of her youth . The speaker is possibly Millay herself as she reflects upon her life maybe in a diary.
Attitude (Tone):
The speaker's tone is melancholy . She sounds depressed and lonely. She refers to the unimportant men as "ghosts" who disturb her at night, so she her attitude towards them is regret(line 4). When one is "haunted" that means one feels guilty by something; it weighs heavy on them. The speaker feels guilty because she was promiscuous. Her tone towards that one man that she wishes she could have again is nostalgic. She longs for the one man instead of having many lovers she can't even remember now.


Shifts:
In the beginning the tone is one that ponders her previous affairs. Each transition successfully serves as she longs for that one pure love.
At the first transition, “but” in the third line, the tone shifts to one of a haunting sadness as the speaker uses words such as “ghosts. . . that tap and sigh,” “quiet pain,” “midnight. . . cry.”
The second transition occurs in line nine with the use of “thus” which gives the effect to the cause: these men have come and gone and now she has only her memories to keep her company. The tone here is loneliness as she compares herself to a tree in the winter.
The last transition happens in the twelfth line immediately after a colon, "I cannot say..." . Here the speaker admits she cannot remember her lovers, but she does know that she once was happy for a time. Sadly, she is unable to feel that same joy again.


Theme:
The speaker is regretting her past relationships because they were meaningless to the point she doesn't remember them. Her loneliness causes her to realize she should have cherished the real, true love she once had because all the other men came and went.

Paraphrase:
If one were to take this literally, without interpreting the figurative language, this poem would be about a women who is trying remember her past lovers while being haunted by ghosts. Then the poem would be about a tree that has been left by all the birds and longing for summer. But, since we interpret and decode the figurative language, everything has a deeper meaning rather than a literal one. She is now a lonely women who is in anguish because she was promiscuous rather than taking love seriously.
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