The dream

The dream

Under the pseudonym of pen name Nancy Boyd, the American poetess Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote some beautiful poems. She was the third woman who received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923. This is her poem The dream

Edna St. Vincent Millay in 1914.
Edna St. Vincent Millay in 1914. Source

About Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay fell down the stairs on October 19, 1950. She was discovered eight hours after she died. Long after she died, in 2010, a museum was opened in the house she last lived in. Her legacy however was preserved thanks to the The Millay Colony of Arts.

Millay was born on February 22, 1892 in Rockland (Maine, US). Her middle name St. Vincent was a referrence to the hospital in New York. Just before Milay was born, her uncle was treated there, with success. Her parents were Henry Tolman Millay – a schoolteacher and superintendent – and Cora Lounella Buzelle – a nurse. The marriage between her parents ended in 1904, after they had been living apart for several years. The reason for her mother to divorce her father had to do with financial malversations. Together with her daughters (Edna, Norma Lounella and Kathleen Kalloch), Cora lived in poverty and moved from town to town. Cora would read her children Shakespeare and Milton and this is probably where Millay got her inspiration from. Finally they were able to move into a house in Camden. This house belonged to an aunt of Millay. It was ath the Camden High School where she started writing poetry for the first time. She won her first prize when she was fourteen years old: the Nicholas Gold Badge. From there on, she got published in several magazines and newspapers.

In 1921 she was able to study at Vassar College a private school in New York. She was older than most of her classmates. She graduated in 1917 and moved to New York City. She didn’t have a lot of money, but she claimed she was happy. She worked together with other writers and this lead to the founding of the Cherrly Lane Theater. She began to write under pseudonyms for various magazines at that time. Because of the controversy involved with her work and love life (she was attracked to both men and women), she found it better to use a pseudonym.

Millay won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923 for the poem The ballad of the harp-weaver. At that time it wasn’t realy comon for women to receive prizes as these. She was the third woman, who was awarded with this prize.

In 1923 she married Eugen Jan Boissevain, who was at that time 43. He supported her career and was responsible for the domestic tasks. The marriage lasted 26 years, until Boissevain died in 1949.

In 1925 the couple would move to the estate Steepletop in Austerlitz (New York). This used to be a blueberry farm. They wanted to use the terrain to build their lives together. From there on, she saw a changing world. The rise of the nazis in Europe and the fall of democracies. She wrote about this, intensively. This part of her work, was criticised a lot. At the same time another poet, Ezra Pound, spoke openly about his admiration for facism. He did not receive the same criticism as Millay did. She was ridiculed for taking a stand agains nazism, while Pound was getting the support from the literairy world. Nowadays unthinkable.

In 1943 Millay was awarded the Frost Medal for her oeuvre. She was the second woman who received this prize.

After the death of her husband in 1949, she continued to live in Steepletop. She died a year later. It was her sister Norma and her husband, who founded the Millay Colony of Arts. That lead to the founding of a museum in 2010, long after the deaths of Norma and her husband.

The dream

The dream

Love, if I weep it will not matter,
And if you laugh I shall not care;
Foolish am I to think about it,
But it is good to feel you there.

Love, in my sleep I dreamed of waking,—
White and awful the moonlight reached
Over the floor, and somewhere, somewhere,
There was a shutter loose,—it screeched!

Swung in the wind,—and no wind blowing!—
I was afraid, and turned to you,
Put out my hand to you for comfort,—
And you were gone! Cold, cold as dew,

Under my hand the moonlight lay!
Love, if you laugh I shall not care,
But if I weep it will not matter,—
Ah, it is good to feel you there!

— Edna St. Vincent Mallay.

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