Thursday, January 13, 2022

Millay's To Love Impuissant (#poem)


To Love Impuissant

Love, though you riddle me with darts,
And drag me at your chariot till I die,--
Oh, heavy prince! Oh, panderer of hearts!--
You hear me tell how in their throats they lie
Who shout you mighty: thick about my hair
Day in, day out, your ominous arrows purr,
Who still am free, unto no querulous care
A fool, and in no temple worshiper!
I, that have bared me to your quiver's fire,
Lifted my face into its puny rain,
Do wreathe you Impotent to Evoke Desire
As you are Powerless to Elicit Pain!
(Now will the god, for blasphemy so brave,
Punish me, surely, with the shaft I crave!)

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

Take that, Cupid!

I came across this in reading Edmund Wilson's The Shores of Light. It first appeared in the magazine Dial in 1920, where Wilson read it. Millay would have been 28 at the time, and she lived on until 1950.

Wilson hadn't at that time met Millay, but knew her poetry and liked it and says he hoped maybe he would be the one she would fall in love with. It wasn't to be...


  1. Replies
    1. I was quite taken with this when I read it in Wilson.

  2. Interesting poem and interesting tidbit about Wilson. I agree with mudpuddle - "querulous" is a marvelous word. I must find a way to work it into my conversation today!

    1. Not one of those everyday words, that's for sure!

  3. Wow, what a powerful poem and almost disturbing on one level. The first six lines are so strong, as if one couldn't escape cupid/love if they tried, but later she calls it "puny rain". It's interesting. It makes me wonder how she is able to resist. I love the last two lines of the poem .... ironic.

    Thanks for getting my brain working today!

    1. Yes, she starts out as the Hector to Love's Achilles, but then the last two lines really do make it, I think. That's quite the twist.

  4. This is a great poem! I don't read a lot of poetry, but I've always enjoyed all of Edna St. Vincent Millay's. :)

    1. I really like her, and I don't think I'd ever read this one before.

  5. Ahhh, she's an old favourite of mine too. I remember a couple of good biographies as well...

    1. I've never read a biography of her, but I do know there are supposed to be some good ones. Might be tough--her last years were sadder than most I think.