Source: Poetry (May 1919).
AS I went walking up and down to take the evening air,
(Sweet to meet upon the street, why must I be so shy?)
I saw him lay his hand upon her torn black hair;
("Little dirty Latin child, let the lady by!")
The women squatting on the stoops were slovenly and fat,
(Lay me out in organdie, lay me out in lawn!)
And everywhere I stepped there was a baby or a cat;
(Lord, God in Heaven, will it ever be dawn?)
The fruit-carts and clam-carts were ribald as a fair,
(Pink nets and wet shells trodden under heel)
She had haggled from the fruit man of his rotting ware;
(I shall never get to sleep, the way I feel!)
He walked like a king through the filth and the clutter,
(Sweet to meet upon the street, why did you glance me by?)
But he caught the faint Italian quip she flung him from the gutter;
(What can there be to cry about, that I should lie and cry?)
He laid his darling hand upon her little black head,
(I wish I were a ragged child with earrings in my ears!)
And he said she was a baggage to have said what she had said;
(Truly I shall be ill unless I stop these tears!)
What do you all think of these? She lived in New York in the 1920's. She has fallen out of favor in the last 50 years, her poems seem too simple, I think. But when I was younger they moved me greatly. I had the mother of a friend of mine give me her old battered copy of 'A few figs from thistles' I sat in my room for hours, reading and weeping.
Millay wrote about her love affairs with both men and women, she wrote about duty and religion, and social justice. She was one of the most vocal protesters of the conviction of Sacco and Vanzetti. In short, I think she has real substance.
I love 'Recurdo' entirely. And it is still relevant. People still ride around on the Staten Island ferry just for fun.
The second poem has not aged as well. It makes me uncomfortable. I think it is meant to do, though. But the writing is so forceful and clear, like being poked with something sharp.
Anyway, curious to know what you all think.