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Literary Passages

Edna St. Vincent Millay Meets Jack London

Posted in the Museum at Jack London Historic State Park in Glen Ellen, California.

Posted in the Museum at Jack London Historic State Park in Glen Ellen, California.


Things have a way of converging. Today I stumbled across this essay about Edna St. Vincent Millay. Last week I had returned to her book of poetry, concentrating on the sonnets. Yesterday we visited the ‘Beauty Ranch’ of Jack London (b. 1876) a contemporary of Millay’s (b. 1892), more or less. 

London and Millay had plenty in common, though from opposite coasts of the United States. They both embraced life with a vengeance born of poverty and abandonment. They were both, unfortunately, addicted to morphine (London when being treated for kidney stones and Millay for pain following a car accident). Their free spirits were in spite of the times and because of the times. The industrial revolution and dreadful working conditions inspired London’s brand of socialism. The World Wars contribute to Millay’s political voice of isolationism, her gender to her studied indifference.  Overall, they both sang of individualism and freedom, the personal struggles and high-flying spirits of those who love to live, and live to prevail.

Compare Edna St. Vincent Millay’s lyric poem, God’s World with London’s sentiment:

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!

Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!

Thy mists, that roll and rise!

Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag

And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag

To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!

World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!

Long have I known a glory in it all,

But never knew I this;

Here such a passion is

As stretcheth me apart,–Lord, I do fear

thou’st made the world too beautiful this year;

My soul is all but out of me,–let fall

No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.




Jack London State Park, Glen Ellen, California.


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