JoEllen Green Kaiser: On "First Fig"

Much of Millay’s work of the early 1920s seems on its surface more like the modernist "Spring" than the sentimental "Song of a Second April" [both from Second April]. Most strikingly, Millay attacked the sentimental construction of absent love in A Few Figs From Thistles and to a lesser extent in Second April. Her most famous poem, after all, does not mourn absent love but rejoices in love’s impermanence:

My candle burns at both ends;

It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends –

It gives a lovely light!

While this "First Fig" marked Millay’s break from traditional sentimentality, however, it did not necessarily signal her embrace of modernism. In contradistinction to the modernist creed of impersonality enunciated by Eliot, Millay’s poetry remains personal. Her attitude toward love may not be that shared by her nineteenth-century predecessors, but she does share with them a belief in the centrality of love for poetry.

Details

Criticism Overview
Title JoEllen Green Kaiser: On "First Fig" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Diane P. Freedman Criticism Target Edna St. Vincent Millay
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 28 May 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Displaced Modernism: Millay and the Triumph of Sentimentality
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