Explain and analyze Sonnet 29 by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

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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...

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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.

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The first octave of this sonnet is filled with images traditionally associated with aging: "the close of day," or evening; then the end of the year, which would be autumn or winter, when "beauties" pass away from nature; the waning of the moon; and the tide going out. These signs of the loss of energy and brilliance in the natural world become symbols for the speaker's own aging. She doesn't want to be pitied for this natural progression through life any more than nature is pitied for its natural cycles. This is simply the way the world is, and it expresses itself as she ages, in the loss of love. As she puts it, addressing her beloved: "you no longer look with love on me."

Her aging is implied in the series of images she uses but is not stated outright.

In the last six lines, or sestet, the speaker describes love as ephemeral or fleeting. It is like a "blossom" that blows in the wind or the tide going in or out, leaving behind "wreckage" on the shore. What has happened to her in losing her beloved is natural; but her lament, in the last couplet, is that her heart is "slow to learn" what her intellect grasps. In other words, she can cognitively understand that she is aging and has lost her beloved, but emotionally, she is having a hard time with this reality.

The imagery and her address to her beloved create a poignant tone, as does her lament at how knowledge does not keep the heart from breaking.

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In a nutshell, the speaker is asking that she not be pitied for the natural things that happen in life that bring heartbreak. She only asks to be pitied because she feels pain when these things happen, even though she understands that they are inevitable.

In the first six lines of the sonnet, the speaker compares the passing of time and youth to things in the natural world that also pass away - the "light of day" ends at nightfall, the beauty of the "field and thicket" fades as spring turns to summer and summer to fall, the moon wanes each month until it is seen no more, and the tide goes out to the sea. All of these things are temporary, and they are things that she has learned to accept. In the next six lines, the speaker addresses human relationships, and in particular, a man who once loved her but loves her no more. The speaker understands that love is like "the wide blossom" which is knocked down by the wind, and like the tide that strews wreckage on the shore, the wreckage of her life, abandoned by love. The speaker understands, on a rational level, that all these passings are a part of life, and accepts them, at least with her mind. Her heart, however, still feels pain despite her understanding, and it is for this and this alone that she asks to be pitied.

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