Louis Untermeyer (review date 14 February 1918)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Untermeyer, Louis. “Why a Poet Should Never Be Educated.” In Critical Essays on Edna St. Vincent Millay, edited by William B. Thesing, pp. 29-32. New York: G. K. Hall, 1993.

[In the following review, originally published in the Dial magazine on 14 Februrary, 1918, Untermeyer praises the collection Renascence and Other Poems as an extraordinary work in which the reader finds “a direct and often dramatic power.”]

These three first volumes [First Offering by Samuel Roth; Renascence and Other Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay; and First Poems by Edwin Curran], with their curious kinship and even more curious contrasts,...

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Carl Van Doren (essay date 1924)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Van Doren, Carl. “Youth and Wings: Edna St. Vincent Millay.” In Many Minds, pp. 105-19. New York: Knopf, 1924.

[In the following excerpt, Van Doren defines Renascence as “one of the loveliest of American poems.”]

The little renaissance of poetry which there have been a hundred historians to scent and chronicle in the United States during the last decade flushed to a dawn in 1912. In that year was founded a magazine for the sole purpose of helping poems into the world; in that year was published an anthology which meant to become an annual, though, as it happened, another annual by another editor took its place the year following. The real...

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Alfred Kreymborg (essay date 1929)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Kreymborg, Alfred. “Women as Humans, as Lovers, as Artists.” In Our Singing Strength: An Outline of American Poetry (1620-1930), pp. 438-65. New York: Coward-McCann, 1929.

[In the following excerpt, Kreymborg praises Millay's exquisite craftsmanship, describing Renascence as a mystical work of prophetic power.]

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!

Edna St. Vincent Millay

In turning to the group of women, one again endeavors to avoid too arbitrary an alignment and too narrow a range of hypotheses and conclusions. But, in a land where confession and autobiography, especially among women, is of comparatively recent...

(The entire section is 1014 words.)

Elizabeth Atkins (essay date 1936)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Atkins, Elizabeth. “Renascence: Poetry of a Child's Certainties.” In Edna St. Vincent Millay and Her Times, pp. 1-25. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1936.

[In the following essay, Atkins comments on Millay's mastery of poetic diction in Renascence, remarking that the poet never “repudiated her heritage of natural English speech.”]

Last spring the newspapers reported that the manuscripts of all Edna St. Vincent Millay's unpublished poems had just been destroyed in a hotel fire. The report of the catastrophe underscores a fact that is likely to be obscured in a study like my present one, namely, that it is too soon to shut Miss Millay...

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Oscar Cargill (essay date 1941)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Cargill, Oscar. “The New Freedom: Millay.” In Intellectual America: Ideas on the March, pp. 638-39. New York: Macmillan, 1941.

[In the following excerpt, Cargill defines Renascence as an inspired description of a spiritual struggle.]

Fame, which even in America may not necessarily mean rich rewards, had come with Renascence, again kindly greeted by the critics in Miss Millay's first volume, Renascence and Other Poems (1917). Louis Untermeyer pronounced this “possibly the most astonishing performance of this generation.” It is a poem of soaring imagination which instructs us that reality is fixed only by the individual heart; if it...

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Miriam Gurko (essay date 1962)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Gurko, Miriam. “Renascence.” In Restless Spirit: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, pp. 33-42. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1962.

[In the following essay, Gurko discusses the biographical and psychological context of Millay's poem.]

All I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked another way,
And saw three islands in a bay.
So with my eyes I traced the line
Of the horizon, thin and fine,
Straight around till I was come
Back to where I'd started from;
And all I saw from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood.

Collected Poems

With the ten dollars...

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Norman A. Brittin (essay date 1967)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Brittin, Norman A. ‘“‘All That Once Was I!’” In Edna St. Vincent Millay, pp. 70-92. New York: Twayne, 1967.

[In the following excerpt, Brittin praises Renascence as an inspired poem which eloquently conveys “a sense of the immense mystery of the universe.”]

Renascence, the most salient poem in Millay's first volume, conveys with extraordinary freshness and with generally fine technique a sense of the immense mystery of the universe. Like much of her poetry, it is in the tradition of American transcendentalism. “Interim” and “The Suicide” are ambitious pieces of apprentice work that reflect the encounter of late adolescence...

(The entire section is 2159 words.)

Suzanne Clark (essay date spring 1986)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Clark, Suzanne. “Jouissance and the Sentimental Daughter: Edna St. Vincent Millay.” North Dakota Quarterly 54, no. 2 (spring 1986): 85-108.

[In the following essay, Clark relies on a variety of feminist and psychoanalytical ideas to define Renascence as a valiant, but ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to forge an authentic feminine poetic statement which would transcend the symbolism of male literary tradition.]

The effect was, at first, to embarrass me: it was a little as if a Shakespearean actor were suddenly, off the stage, to begin expressing private emotions with the intonations of the play.


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Cheryl Walker (essay date 1991)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Walker, Cheryl. “Women on the Market: Edna St. Vincent Millay's Body Language.” In Masks Outrageous and Austere: Culture, Psyche, and Persona in Modern Women Poets, pp. 135-64. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.

[In the following excerpt, Walker interprets Renascence as emblematic of the poet's awareness of the power and fragility her own body.]

Though born only six years after H. D. (1892 versus 1886), Edna St. Vincent Millay seems to belong to a different era. H. D.'s persona, often an elegant form of Artemis, surely has little in common with the flapper image of early Millay. One gives the impression of timelessness; the other strikes us...

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Christopher Benfey (essay date 5 November 2001)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Benfey, Christopher. “Flawed Perfection.” The New Republic 225, no. 19 (5 November 2001): 39-42.

[In the following excerpt, Benfey describes Renascence as a “claustrophobic” masterpiece.]

Millay's childhood is a story of precocious virtuosity. She excelled at everything, and was always the leading lady in the school play, the class poet (except once, when her classmates, tired of her queenly ways, voted for the class dullard), the star. Music and poetry were her refuge from the daily grind of keeping house in ever more modest rented rooms along the rocky Maine coast. Nancy Milford, in the moving opening section of her painstaking and sympathetic...

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Daniel Mark Epstein (essay date 2001)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Epstein, Daniel Mark. “Renascence.” In What Lips My Lips Have Kissed: The Loves and Love Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay, pp. 49-67. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2001.

[In the following excerpt, Epstein describes the emotional and erotic context of Millay's poem.]

In September of 1911 she had written, “There is no time, no distance in my love. It is the supreme element. But it is too great to bear alone and the weight of it is crushing me. … I need your hand to cling to. … Oh, Sweetheart! How long will you leave me alone?”

By January 1912, in the icy grip of winter, she was terrified: “I am frightened. I do not know...

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