FIVE SONNETS BY EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY
Set by John Mitchell (1941-), op. 50 (1983)
Texts by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950).
1. Night is my sister nightismysister.mp3
Night is my sister, and how deep in love,
How drowned in love and weedily washed ashore,
There to be fretted by the drag and shove
At the tide's edge, I lie--these things and more:
Whose arm alone between me and the sand,
Whose voice alone, whose pitiful breath brought near,
Could thaw these nostrils and unlock this hand,
She could advise you, should you care to hear.
Small chance, however, in a storm so black,
A man will leave his friendly fire
For a drowned woman's sake, and bring her back
To drip and scatter shells upon the rug.
No one but Night, with tears on her dark face,
Watches beside me in this windy place.
2. Columbine columbine.mp3
The light comes back with Columbine; she brings
A touch of this, a little touch of that,
Coloured confetti, and a favour hat,
Patches, and powder, dolls that work by strings
And moons that work by switches, all the things
That please a sick man's fancy, and a flat
Spry convalescent kiss, and a small pat
Upon the pillow, paper offerings.
The light goes out with her; the shadows sprawl.
Where she has left her fragrance like a shawl
I lie alone and pluck the counterpane,
Or on a dizzy elbow rise and hark
And down like dominoes along the dark
Her little silly laughter spills again!
3. Time does not bring relief time.mp3
Time does not bring relief: you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain:
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from ev'ry mountain side,
And last year's leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year's bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart and my old thoughts abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go, so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
where never fell his foot or shone his face.
I say "There is no mem'ry of him here,"
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.
4. You'll be sorry sorry.mp3
Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!
Give back my book and take my kiss instead.
Was it my enemy or my friend I heard?
"What a big book for such a little head!"
Come, I will show you now my newest hat,
And you may watch me purse my mouth and prink!
Oh, I shall love you still, and all of that.
I never again will tell you what I think.
I shall be sweet and crafty, soft and sly;
You will not catch me reading any more;
I shall be called a wife to pattern by.
And some day when you knock and push the door,
Some sane day, not too bright and not too stormy,
I shall be gone,
And you may whistle for me.
5. Beauty beauty.mp3
Think not, not for a moment let your mind,
Wearied with thinking, doze upon the thought
That the work's done and the long day behind,
And beauty, since 'tis paid for, can be bought.
If in the moonlight from the silent bough
Suddenly speak your name
The nightingale, be not assured that now
His wing is limed and his wild virtue tame.
Beauty beyond all feathers that have flown
Is free; you shall not hood her to your wrist,
Nor sting her eyes, nor have her for your own
In any fashion; beauty billed and kissed
Is not your turtle; tread her like a dove
She loves you not; she never heard of love.
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