Friday, January 25, 2008

Sonnets: Edna St. Vincent Millay

On Hearing a Symphony of Beethoven

Sweet sounds, oh, beautiful music, do not cease!
Reject me not into the world again.
With you alone is excellence and peace,
Mankind made plausible, his purpose plain.
Enchanted in your air benign and shrewd,

read the rest of this sonnet here.

You can read it here and listen to Beethoven's fifth symphony at the same time. Scroll down and start the player at the bottom of the page.

It is nearly impossible for me to drive well and safely with two children in the backseat at the end of a long day. We are all tired and hungry, the traffic is horrible, and the little boys cycle between rambunctious hilarity and screaming fits. It is all I can do to keep my mind and eye on the road. My strategy of late has been to threaten to turn off the radio if they don't keep quiet. Since they both love music that tends to tame them. The sounds of gospel praise music, jazz or classical symphonies keep us organized and in sync. Millay puts it this way:
" Enchanted in your air benign and shrewd,
With limbs a-sprawl and empty faces pale,
The spiteful and the stingy and the rude
Sleep like the scullions in the fairy-tale."

She could very well be speaking of the occupants of my Civic, although I doubt she envisioned it quite that way. Millay led a fascinating life. Read more of her poetry and biography at these links:
Isle of Lesbos
List of poems
Millay Society

The Friday Poetry roundup is at Mentor Texts and More today. Go read!


Jules at 7-Imp said...

Oh how I wish the CD player in my car were not broken, so that I could put in some of those CDs that make my daughters calm, too! I am dependent on the radio now, which is not always so agreeable.

Thanks for the beautiful poetry.

Jules, 7-Imp

Anonymous said...

Whoa boy have I been down that road before...

jama said...

"This moment is the best the world can give."

What a lovely sonnet! Music alone can tame the savage beast. Glad I'm not in your Civic with you . . .

Sara said...

Music IS a rampart, isn't it? I remember a lot of desperate singing in the car when my kids were little. I sing very badly, but they could join in and drown me out.

Charlotte said...

Gosh, I wish mine liked listening to calming classical music. I tried when they were young, but maybe not hard enough.

Edna's description of the listeners reminds me a bit of opium eaters...

tanita✿davis said...

:) You're great to have music. We had music, too, but there also came those points where we were not ALLOWED to talk in the car. Good old CD player!!

Anonymous said...

Music does indeed soothe the savage breast.

And you've reminded me that I need to read more Millay.

Elaine Magliaro said...


Great post! I have an only child. Fortunately, I never had to deal with her squabbling with a sibling in the back seat of the car while I was driving. A long drive always lulled her into a relaxed state.

Shannon said...

I can relate! I too have two boys and teaching my oldest son Josh (now a preschooler) to enjoy Mozart as much as I do has made for more peaceful and pleasant car rides...I just have to smile inside when he asks me to play 'Eine Klein Nacht Music' (sp??)!

Mary Lee said...

Puts a whole new spin on the sonnet to imagine your boys saying that when you threaten to turn off the radio!