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Dirge Without Music by. Edna Vincent Millay
Transcript of Dirge Without Music by. Edna Vincent Millay
By. Edna St. Vincent Millay Who was Edna? Stanza 1 •Successful poet from 1912 to her death in 1950•She entered her poem “renaissance” in a contest in 1912 and her fame began•Lived in new England for the majority of her life•Known for both her dramatic works and poetry works•She combined modernist attitudes with traditional forms•The third woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry (1923)•Role model for women and women’s rights•She was the 6th person and the 2nd woman to be awarded the Frost Medal for her lifetime contribution to American poetry (1943)•Her husband whom supported and provided for her career died in 1949 of lung cancer •“A Dirge Without Music” is thought to be written about his death I am not resigned to to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is,and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned. I the first stanza the narrator is stating that most often people turn away and hide from facing the death of the those they have lost This stanza also reveals that over time people think less about those people, no matter how great they are they go into the "darkness"(not often thought about, not seen in a persons mind), and even the narrator does this as well, "I am not resigned" (she does it as well). Stanza 2 Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull,the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, -but the best is lost. In stanza 2 the poet talks about how the best are even lost after death and everyone the wise or unwise, the nice or the mean are all buried into the same ground because they all eventually become one with the earth. In line 6 the poet describes how someone becomes one with the “indiscriminate dust” explaining the significance of how everyone is buried in the same ground and become as equal when decaying in the ground. Lastly in line 8 the poet states “A formula, a phrase remains-but the best is lost”. This statement can signify that the essence of the deceased personality and of what they did when alive is lost at death. But perhaps something that person said or done still stays within our minds and thoughts.
indiscriminate- not making or based on careful distinctions, unselective, random, haphazard Stanza 3 The answer quick and Keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,-
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragment is the blossom. I know. But i do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world. In the third stanza, the poem depicts people’s decayed bodies being used to feed the roses, which on the surface seems like a positive metaphor, but then the poet goes on to express how even though roses are beautiful and fragrant, they are nothing compared to the “light in your eyes” (line 12); which is a symbol for the soul. In this way, Millay turns around the clique of a dead body being used to feed nature’s beauty as a good thing and stubbornly insists that it is not a worthwhile sacrifice to feed the roses. Stanza 4 Down,down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned. “I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.”(Synonyms for “resigned”- passive/ compliant/ obedient)She understand and knows that her loved ones must die, and that she cannot stop natural forces, but still, she cannot accept it without a struggle.The uses of punctuation in the fourth stanza make the reader consistently stop. When reading it in such a “clipped” way, it sounds like the reader is choking up/ holding back crying, which is probably the same way that Millay would sound if she was reading her poem out loud. Also, this is most likely the state she was in while writing this poem, a very glum and depressed mood. Although she is unable to compromise with the subject of losing a loved one, she can only write about her disapproval because there is nothing substantial she can do to bring back the dead. Dirge Without Music- Title Significance
The title, “Dirge Without Music” suggests the poem is about mourning. The poem does not seem angry, but always wistful instead. Millay presents such images as “crowned/With lilies and laurel they go; but I am not resigned” (lines 3-4) which suggest a certain beauty and elegance about death. In the third stanza, the poem depicts people’s decayed bodies being used to feed the roses, which on the surface seems like a positive metaphor, but then the poet goes on to express how even though roses are beautiful and fragrant, they are nothing compared to the “light in your eyes” (line 12); which is a symbol for the soul. In this way, Millay turns around the clique of a dead body being used to feed nature’s beauty as a good thing and stubbornly insists that it is not a worthwhile sacrifice to feed the roses. Rhyme and Meter Dirge Without Music is written with a ABAB, CDCD, EFEF, GHGH rhyme scheme, though many of the rhymes, such as love/approve (lines 9 and 11) are slant rhymes, and the rhyming pattern does not immediately become apparently to the reader, because the lines are so long. The poem is written in iambic pentameter and falls into an appealing and easy to follow rhythm. In the second stanza, the perspective changes slightly and the poet begins to address the people who die directly, saying “into the earth with you,” (line 5) almost as if she is commanding it. This again shows the confusion of the poet’s role and the paradox of both her understanding and her reluctance to face the facts of death. She does not try to distance herself from the realities of death and the darkness that ensues in this stanza, and yet she does not ever discuss her own death or use many specific details.