Improve your writing

“God’s World” by Edna St. Vincent Millay (Analysis)

A problem stands over us the while; it deafens and blinds so that we fail to hear and see what Nature says. Look around and you will see "God’s world", the universe of the best in life given to man for free.

In 1923 Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) who preferred to call herself Vincent or Nancy Boyd (her pseudonym), is one of the best poets of the twentieth century. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for “The Ballad of the Harp Weaver”; in 1943 the Frost Medal for her lifetime contribution to American poetry. Such a “frivolous woman with a mouth like a valentine” fell from the stairs found dead eight hours after her death at fifty eight. She had been diagnosed with a heart attack folllowing  a coronary occlusion.

Miss Millay was nineteen when she wrote her first volume of poetry called “Renascence” from which this lyric poem “God’s World” was taken. In the poem she exemplifies the passionate resignation of youth to the beauty and splendor of Nature one autumn day when she holds out her aching arms to welcome Nature. Autumn or fall is the season between summer and winter when the bright green color of leaves gives way to colors like bright red (e.g., the maple) yellow, orange, and purple; the trees like the oaks become brown— spectacular sights an appreciative eye would want to watch forever.


O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide gray skies!
Thy mists that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day that ache and sag
And all but cry with color!
That gaunt crag to crush!
To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, world, I cannot hold thee close enough!

Long have I known a glory of it all,
But never knew I this;
Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart.
Lord, I do fear
Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year.
My soul is but out of me-let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call. #


Millay, a romantic poet, apostrophizes or addresses the “World” and uses the catalogue system to enumerate the beautiful sights in autumn— the winds; the mists that “roll and rise”; the gray skies; the bare woods that “ache and sag”; the “gaunt crag” that is about to crumble or “crush” from its height; the “black bluff” that cannot be lifted. Though suffering from antiquity they still live in harmony with Nature. All in all the effect is a sad and austere yet beautiful world. Overwhelmed by their beauty the poet feels she “cannot hold” these beauties “close enough”— meaning, their beauty is too great to be borne. Impliedly they can only be appreciated.

God, the Ultimate Magician, has made the world “too beautiful” to be true, so that the spectator has only eyes to see and wonder but lack the understanding and the tongue to explain God’s artistic skills. The phrase “this year” suggests a timeless cycle of God’s creation— as it was in the past, so it is (”too beautiful this year”) and will be— more beautiful than ever.

In the second or last stanza Miss Millay is in a state of passionate surrender to the beauty of Nature in autumn. Mystified, she feels being “stretched apart”, a hyperbolic or exaggerated way of saying that she is too happy to express herself in awe and wonder at God’s spectacular creation. It is unendurable or too much to bear when a “burning leaf” and a bird calls, because they too are too beautiful to behold. A burning leaf suggests the color of leaves in autumn due to cold nights, the result of a dark green leaf turning into bright read (or possibly orange) after it stops to manufacture chlorophyll as a result of the suspension of the process of photosynthesis. This avoidance of the use of factual information is rationalized from the fact that feeling informs fact in romantic poetry. So instead of saying bright red or orange Millay says “burning” where verbal intensity subordinates fact to feeling. The word “prithee” (an archaic way of saying “I pray thee”) suggests that Millay implores the Divine Providence in a pantheistic sense— that is, she identifies God with Nature. Impliedly a beautiful autumn day is a manifestation of God’s divine power.

Alliteration is a literary device that repeats the initial letters of words. Millay pairs off winds and wide; roll and rise; cry and color; crag and crush; black and bluff; burning and bird.

Repetition is used. Millay repeats “thy” and “thee” for emphasis.

Millay makes use of rhymes: enough and bluff; skies and rise; sag and crag; this and is; all and fall. ###

Liked it
13 Responses to ““God’s World” by Edna St. Vincent Millay (Analysis)”
Leave a Reply
comments powered by Disqus
Click the icon to the left to subscribe to Writinghood with your favorite RSS reader.
© 2009 Writinghood | About | Advertise | Contact | Submit an Article
Powered by