How would you analyse 'Sonnet 29' by Edna St. Vincent Millay?

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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 Edna St. Vincent Millay structures "Sonnet 29" like a Shakespearean sonnet.   The poem uses diction and imagery to reveal the theme of unrequited love. 

The poem opens with a plea from the speaker that her old lover not pity her because the sun no longer shines for her:

"Pity me not because the light of day

At close of day no longer walks the sky" (1-2)

The second and third lines reaffirm her position.  Although she feels deeply saddened, she does not want him to feel sorry for her.  Using imagery, she compares her heartbreak to a field that has turned to a thicket.  She feels undesirable and insecure. 

As the poem continues, Millay continues to underscore her emotional connection to nature with imagery, using phrases like the "waning of the moon" and the "ebbing tide goes out to sea" (5-6).  Both of these nature references have a connotation of loss.  As the moon wanes, it's brilliance grows more dim; there is less light in her life.  The "ebbing tide" is retreating away from the shore; she keenly feels abandonment through the loss of love.

Lines 13 and 14 offer a shift in her perspective.  Earlier in the poem, the speaker clearly stated that she did not want any pity; however in the final lines she writes:

"Pity me that the heart is slow to learn
When the swift mind beholds at every turn." (13-14)

She only wishes that her heart would have been a faster learner to grasp the idea that men's hearts are fickle, like "a wide blossom which the wind assails" (10).  The final couplet reveals that she has accepted her situation and his pity, despite her pain and suffering.



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