It Is Not Meat Nor Drink
Her Early Work
Her Life
The early work of Edna St. Vincent Milay, caused a sensation when first published. She had just turned twenty and she revealed a mystical vision of the universe far beyond what one would expect in a poet so young.

Critics were impressed with her youthful freshness, "a freshness which surprises without alarming." (Deutsch 311). She studied the classics at Vassar, where she developed her feminist principles that were evident in her mature poetry: "Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath."


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Babette Deutsch notes that "her modernity lies in her willingness to [acknowledge] that the relationship between the sexes is not what it was painted by the poets of romantic love" (311). Millay wrote: "I might be driven to sell your love for peace." (Sonnet XXX 12).

It has been written that [Millay] found it unusually difficult, poetically speaking, to come of age. Edna St.Vincent Millay is loved and respected in literary circles.

Essay by Richard J. Williams
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Illustration by Charles F. Winans
By 1930 Milay had "traveled a long way since she wrote …the poems of her girlhood." and "all her troubles...she sees as those of the strange earth-dweller, man..." When she graduated, she moved to Greenwich Village, where women's rights were an accepted part of the social code.

Many of her later, more serious poems, the sonnet sequence, are in celebration of romantic love. Hildegarde Flanner, writing in The New Republic says: "The sonnet was ideally suited to her .... It [the sonnet] recieved something from her....She gave to it ...sophistication and a form highly feminine." (155). "She infused personal energy and glow into the traditions of lyric poetry" (Flanner 167).

John Ransom, in an essay for the Southern Review, wrote: "her limitation is a lack of intellectual stimulation...[expressed in her writing]" (783). It is this, which the male reader notices and misses, although he "may acknowledge the authenticity of the clarity which is there. (Ransom 798). Her best subjects are...the indomitable feminine principle... [which] she has reserved for the subject of the sonnets and they are rather un-conventional.…personal moods, which she indulges in without apology (Ransom 801) as in "Pinned down by pain and moaning for release...." (Millay 10).
Works Cited
Atkins, Elizabeth Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, Vol. 4. ed. Sharon K. Hall, Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1978 (311).

Edna St. Vincent Millay and Her Times. Chicago: U. of Chicago Press. 1936

Babette, "Bearers of Tradition" This Modern Poetry. New York: W.W. Norton and Co. 1935.

Flanner, Hildegarde "Two Poets: Jeffers and Millay" The New Republic Vol. 89, No.156, 1937 (155-167).

Millay, Edna St. Vincent "Sonnet XXX: Love Is Not All; It Is Not Meat Nor Drink."

Lives Through Literature: A Thematic Anthology. 2nd ed. Keating, Helane Levine and Walter Levy. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall 1995 (491). Ransom, John "The Poet As Woman" Southern Review, Vol 2, No. 4, Spring 1937 (783-805).