An Analysis of Millay's Poem, Renascence
At first glance Edna St. Vincent Millay's first recognized poem, Renascence, seems to be easy to understand and follow. However, as this sing-songy poem is dissected, the reader embarks upon a world full of emotion, religion, confusion, pain and sin. This poem is split up into six sections or stanzas which separate the action of the poem into easy to understand parts. I have chosen to discuss the first section of the poem for my close reading.
Although this section is the easiest to read, it sets up the action and requires the most "reading between the lines" to follow along with the quick and meaningful happenings. Millay begins her poem by describing, in first person, the limitations of her world as a child. She links herself to these nature images and wonders about what the world is like beyond the islands and mountains. The initial language and writing style hint at a child-like theme used in this section. This device invites the reader to sit back and enjoy the poem without the pressure to understand complex words and structure.
Further into the first stanza Millay begins to ruminate about how she will go beyond her own boundaries and become familiar with the "Undefined." At this point the girl decides to achieve her knowledge by simply lying on her back and touching the sky. This is the juncture where readers may draw different conclusions about what she is really doing here. I personally thought that she fell into a dream like state or literally fell asleep and began to dream about infinity and the wonders of the heavens.
Once the girl actually touches the sky, a whirlwind of repercussions takes over her next moments and forces her to ride an emotional roller coaster. "The How and Why of all things, past,/ And present, and forevermore." were bestowed upon the child as a gift from the heavens. This opportunity is the evil gift the girl cannot give up. Just as Eve bite into the forbidden fruit the young girl sucks the "venom" out of the knowledge. This gift asks in return the toll of an "infinite remorse of soul." In a split second the girl takes on a god-like existence where she alone must bear the pain and suffering of human kind,...