Poetry 66: Love Is Not All by Edna St. Vincent Millay


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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About Barry Daniel

I live in the Lake District in the UK where I run a guesthouse with my partner Kate and my cat Manuel. I enjoy painting, hillwalking, reading, visiting and entertaining friends, T’ai Chi and playing the guitar. I’m engaged to a certain degree in the local community, as a volunteer with Samaritans and I’m a fairly active member of the local Green party. I’ve had a relatively intuitive sense of the Middle Way most of my adult life but it found a greater articulation and a practical direction through joining the society. It’s also been interesting and great fun engaging with other people with a similar outlook. My main contribution to the society is conducting the podcast interviews, something that gives me a lot of satisfaction and that I’ve learnt a lot from.

One thought on “Poetry 66: Love Is Not All by Edna St. Vincent Millay

  1. It’s my impression that this poem expresses more closely than “The Invitation” does what it means to be human. And I admire the integrity of the final claim – in its uncertainty, its provisionality, “I do not think I would” ( “be driven to sell your love for peace……trade the memory of this night for food…….”).

    The narrative voice that Oriah Mountain Dreamer uses repeatedly (“It doesn’t interest me…….”) carries a strident and remorselessly critical tone. Whose is this voice that judges me so quickly? Has it known what it is to fail? Or is it just rattling the bones of dessicated virtues in my face from its high station in the scheme of things it inhabits, while sneering when I flinch back in shame?

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