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Commentary on Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Dirge without Music".

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I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground. So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind: Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned. Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you. Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust. A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew, A formula, a phrase remains, --- but the best is lost. The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love, They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve. More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world. Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind; Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave. ...read more.


Imagery that appeals to visual is also present in this poem the "darkness of the grave" paints a gloomy portrait and the attempt to balance it out the gloominess with flowers like "roses" and "lilies." The juxtaposition of flowers and dirt illustrates the reality of life. Flowers are full of beauty and life, but one day it will rot and join alongside with dirt, a figure of death. The beauty of a flower symbolizes a human's expressive qualities, laughter, affection, love, honest look, bravery and intelligence. Millay portrays that while the person's body still exists, their qualities are gone, or as she puts it, "but the best is lost". While we can stare at a person's dead, decaying beauty, we can no longer communicate with them, and that is what she truly wants. Semantic: Millay's word choices revealed a funeral-like tone to the poem. Her use of repetition and "dark" word choices give the impression of gloom, sorrow and burial. ...read more.


For example "Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind; Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave." The brief pauses are mimicking the motion of slowly digging deeper and deeper into the earth. The phrases, "I am not resigned" and "I do not approve" are also repeated throughout the poem to create a great effect. This repetition really emphasizes the authors' disapproval of the fact that death comes to all no matter what they did in life. These phrases contribute to the feeling of despair, and since the poem begins and ends with "I am not resigned", we realize that there is no revelation or comforting conclusion to this poem, just an observation about the reality of life and death. In conclusion: In "Dirge Without Music", Millay laments that there is no continuity of the spiritual or intellectual after death, only the physical in the form of "feed the roses". This poem seems to be a commentary on the futile and temporary nature of life, with the realization that whether or not we approve or are resigned, death is a reality of life. ...read more.

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