Edna Saint Vincent Millay Sonnet If I should learn in some quite casual way IF I should learn, in some quite casual way, That you were gone, not to return again— Read from the back-page of a...

Edna Saint Vincent Millay Sonnet If I should learn in some quite casual way

IF I should learn, in some quite casual way,
That you were gone, not to return again—
Read from the back-page of a paper, say,
Held by a neighbor in a subway train,
How at the corner of this avenue
And such a street (so are the papers filled)
A hurrying man—who happened to be you—
At noon to-day had happened to be killed,
I should not cry aloud—I could not cry
Aloud, or wring my hands in such a place—
I should but watch the station lights rush by
With a more careful interest on my face,
Or raise my eyes and read with greater care
Where to store furs and how to treat the hair.

 

 

what topics from the traditional sonnet are at work here? How are they altered? What accounts for this difference?

please help me out with the metonymy and metaphors in the sonnet as well.

1 Answer | Add Yours

lynnebh's profile pic

lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

Many traditional sonnets are love sonnets. They are often written extolling the virtues of one's love, or written to describe the loved one with flowery imagery and metaphors. This sonnet spoofs that genre. I see it as kind of an underhanded love sonnet because the author is playfully writing about what her reaction would be if she found out her lover was killed. This is why it is different from a traditional sonnet.

An example of metonymy would be:

If I should learn, in some quite casual way,

That you were gone, not to return again--

"you were gone" refers to death.

A metaphor:

I could not cry aloud or wring my hands in such a place

This is a metaphor for grief, intimating that this is what people do when grieving - wring their hands.

Read about the author here on eNotes.

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