18 September 2008

Sonnet XXXI

Talk of sonnets, and Unreal Nature's concentration on poetry or related material, remind me to post another poem which has been important to me. Unlike previous examples (The little furry rabbits and Tumba-bloody-rumba) this one doesn't fall into the "debatable value" category ... but then, in my opinion, nor did Tarantella.

Like Tarantella, I read it in my late teens. It would be probably be overstating the case to say that it shaped my attitudes; but it was certainly the focus of crystallisation for my conscious understanding of diverse influences on the way I think – from the unspoken attitudes of my parents to the feminist revolution which was in process throughout my growing up and coming to adulthood. Kate Millet and Germaine Greer may be the persuasive intellectual influences, but it's this sonnet that sits in my emotional memory like the sudden ignition of a magnesium flare.

Sonnet XXXI
Edna St Vincent Millay

Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!
Give back my book and take my kiss instead.
Was it my enemy or my friend I heard?–
"What a big book for such a little head!"
Come, I will show you now my newest hat,
And you may watch me purse my mouth and prink.
Oh, I shall love you still and all of that.
I never again shall tell you what I think.

I shall be sweet and crafty, soft and sly;
You will not catch me reading any more;
I shall be called a wife to pattern by;
And some day when you knock and push the door,
Some sane day, not too bright and not too stormy,
I shall be gone, and you may whistle for me.

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