Sonnet 29

Read Sonnet 29. What do you think makes think makes this sonnet so sad? Support your ideas with details from the poet’s words.

“Poetry enables the poet to challenge her reader’s perception of life.”

Edna St Vincent Millay’s words hold true for Sonnet 29. She conveys the despondency of her situation by employing various literary techniques- she writes about the loss of love and how fragile and ephemeral it can be, as well offers different views on the temporality of love.

Millay brings across the heart-wrenching emotions of the diminishing of affection through her use of repetition. She writes ‘Pity me not because the light of day/ at close of day no longer walks the sky/ Pity me not for the beauties passed away […] Pity me not the waning moon’. These are all metaphors and symbolisms for the waning of love. The ‘light’ represents the glory, faith, and uplifting joy of love; the beauties the pleasures and wonders of affection; the ‘moon’ the mysteries, amazement and otherworldly powers of passion. The readers feel her pain and sympathize Millay, as all this is wrenched away from her. She repeats the phrase ‘pity me not’ three times (also bringing forth the use of triplets) to emphasize why she shouldn’t be pitied. She tries to claim that she understood love wouldn’t last, claim the blame for the heartache. This, however, has the opposite effect because it invokes even more pity for her in the readers as we can sense her conflicted emotions. Her pain for the reality that ‘love is no more’ clashes with her repudiation of pity. However, an alternative interpretation can be offered. She could be insinuating that men have no emotions, but she is helpless to change it; being heartbroken is natural and men are despicable. The last line of the poem counterposes the unbroken repetition of ‘pity me not’. Millay deftly changes it to ‘pity me that the heart is slow to learn/ When the swift mind beholds at every turn.’ Her antithesis shows that she does not invite pity for the fact that his love has waned but rather claims all the blame- it is her fault that her heart cannot cope with the ever-changing and fleeting ways of love. We feel the immense pain and suffering that she goes through due to heartbreak.

Sorry, I couldn’t find the rest of the essay, I think I got bored and stopped writing. (Oops.) But here, I have ideas for how to finish it off:

Finish the essay yourself?

  • Sibilance: ‘shifting shore’
    • Soft sound
    • Waning, like his love for her
    • Passing of time, changing tides, fleeting
    • Metaphor: ‘fresh wreckage’
      • Pejorative connotations
      • Referring to herself, pieces of her love and heart
        • Torn and tossed in the relentless turmoil of love
        • Calling herself a ‘wreck’à She’s waste, rubbish

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