In this sonnet, the speaker is reflecting on the ephemeral nature of love; she laments that her lover "no longer look[s] with love on" her but asks the reader not to pity her for this. The fading of love is as natural as day fading into night; as growing things...
In this sonnet, the speaker is reflecting on the ephemeral nature of love; she laments that her lover "no longer look[s] with love on" her but asks the reader not to pity her for this. The fading of love is as natural as day fading into night; as growing things dying with the seasons; as "the waning of the moon" and "the ebbing tide" retreating from the shore. She meditates on love as a natural process, using these comparisons to emphasize this fact. She also uses comparison in the form of metaphor to drive this point home. At the end of the poem, she says that
Love is no more
Than the wide blossom which the wind assails,
Than the great tide that treads the shifting shore,
Strewing fresh wreckage gathered in the gales
By metaphorically saying that love is a flower beaten by the wind and the tide that washes wrecked debris onto the seashore, she is further emphasizing that love cannot last; it is fickle and subject to the wiles of nature.
Yet the speaker juxtaposes this truth with the feeling in her heart, which simply cannot be comforted by fact: "Pity me that the heart is slow to learn / What the swift mind beholds at every turn." Though she understands that love is fleeting—though she can even go so far as to think through this breakup and write poems about it—it does not prevent the emotional ache of the loss of her lover, and it is for this discrepancy that she asks the reader to feel sympathy for her.
This sonnet is a traditional sonnet in construction: it follows the traditional rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg, and it is composed of three quatrains and a couplet. Millay uses anaphora in the first couple quatrains, with the repetition of "Pity me not" at the beginning of every other line, and picks this back up at the end with "Pity me instead." This highlights the comparison she is trying to make between natural occurrences and the way the heart processes them. She also makes use of alliteration, as in the lines "wide blossom which the wind assails," "the great tide that treads the shifting shore," and "fresh wreckage gathered in the gales." This, along with assonance like in the line "you no longer look with love on me," creates a harmony of sound in the poem that aligns well with the theme of change and fading being natural processes and with love being in harmony with this nature. One could also say this alignment is reflected in the enjambment used throughout the poem, where a sentence does not end at the end of a line but continues on in the following line.