Edna St. Vincent Millay, 22 Feb 1892 - 19 Oct 1950
Oil on canvas
Edna St. Vincent Millay: Literature\Writer\Poet
Edna St. Vincent Millay: Performing Arts\Performer\Actor\Theater
Edna St. Vincent Millay: Literature\Writer\Playwright
Edna St. Vincent Millay: Literature\Writer\Letter writer
Edna St. Vincent Millay: Pulitzer Prize
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of the artist and Mrs. Norma Millay Ellis
Born Rockland, Maine
Literarily and temperamentally precocious, the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay exemplified the spirit of the "Roaring Twenties" and the emancipation of American women. She started writing as a child and became a rebellious student at Vassar College. In 1917 she moved to Greenwich Village, the center of avant-garde and rebel culture. She won the Pulitzer Prize for The Harp-Weaver in 1923. Poetically, Millay was a romantic, inspired by the ecstatic visions of John Keats and William Wordsworth; her first notable poem "Renascence" (1912) spoke of a nature that "breathed my soul back into me." Her famous quatrain "First Fig" (1920) celebrates abandonment:
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light.
Millay’s romanticism was at odds with literary modernism, and her reputation has declined. However, during the 1920s she exemplified the age that she did so much to define.