A summer interlude

It’s summer in England. Clouds are massing, hail is dropping, and flood alerts are proliferating. In fields up and down the country, cows are recumbent and festival-goers are huddling together for warmth. I managed a brief escape last week – to speak at a conference in Washington DC and watch Fourth of July fireworks in New York (temperature c. 34°) – but I’m now back and hunkering down in the damp for some legal research. Whatever happened to those long, hot, riotous summers we used to know?

Anyway, in my melancholy mood, I’m going to wander way off-topic, by posting one of my favourite sonnets and imagining myself elsewhere. The poem is called Love Is Not All, by the American Edna St. Vincent Millay, and it’s rather beautiful.

Love is not all: It is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain,
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
and rise and sink and rise and sink again.
Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
even as I speak, for lack of love alone.

It well may be that in a difficult hour,
pinned down by need and moaning for release
or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.

It may well be. I do not think I would.

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2 thoughts on “A summer interlude

  1. What a bittersweet surprise to find this poem in my email. I hadn’t come across this in years–probably since graduate school. Sadly, Millay is consigned to the margins of modern American poetry, but she can certainly capture something meaningful with seemingly effortless ease. Thanks for this. P.S. I hope, however, your spirits lift soon.

  2. A while back I read the The Trial and enjoyed it very much. I am just starting to read Heaven on Earth. it is a little trickier to get going on because 1) it introduces me a culture unfamiliar to me (a good reason to work through it); and 2) I am getting old and my brain takes in information more slowly and with more difficulty now. I will also add that I am a hardcore atheist; technically I will define myself as an “Ethical Nihilist.” You may be repelled by this, or you may instantly comprehend what I mean by it, but somehow I suspect, either way, you will be able to deal with it in a relaxed and tolerant manner. I will comment more as I work through the book. (That’s a threat. 🙂 )

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