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A Poem Love Is Not All, or Is It

Categories Life Challenges, Literature, Love And Relationship, Poetry

Essay, Pages 6 (1429 words)

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Essay, Pages 6 (1429 words)

Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Love is Not All”
Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
5Love can not fill thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
10 Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food
It well may be I do not think I would.

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Paraphrase the Poem

Love isn’t everything, it’s not food, beverages, sleep and it sure won’t act as a roof against the rain. Love cannot offer a sinking man in peril a life-saving “floating spar”.

As he rises, he sinks, only to rise and sink again. Love cannot give the air we need to fill our “thickened lung”, it can not clean blood or heal broken bones. Yet for all the things love can’t do, a man without love is a man “making friends with death”. The lack of love alone in a difficult hour will pin you down by pain, whine for release or harass you by the power of past resolution’s. One might be driven to sell love for peace, trade their memories for a meal, but never give up love even if it was to release horrible pains or to get food to live.

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Scan the Poem

/ = stressed syllable
^ = unstressed syllable
= half-stressed syllable
|| = significant pause

^ / | ^ / | ^ / | ^ / | ^ / |
1Love is not all: it is not meat nor drinkA
^ / | ^ / | ^ / | ^ / | ^ / |
2Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;B
^ / | ^ / | ^ / | ^ / | ^ / |
3Nor yet a floating spar to men that sinkA

^ / | ^ / | ^ / | ^ / | ^ / |
4And rise and sink and rise and sink again;B
^ / | ^ /| ^ /| ^ / | ^ / |
5Love can not fill thickened lung with breath,C
^ / | ^ / | ^ / | ^ / | ^ / |
6Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;D
^ / | ^ / | ^ / | ^ / | ^ ^ / |
7Yet many a man is making friends with deathC
^ / | ^ / | / ^ | / ^ | ^ ^ / |
8Even as I speak, for lack of love aloneD
^ / | ^ / | ^ / | ^ / |^ / | ||
9It well may be that in a difficult hour,E
^ / | ^ / | ^ / | ^ / | ^ / |
10Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,F
^ / | ^ / | ^ /| ^ / | ^ /| ||
11Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,E
^ / | ^ / | ^ ^ / | ^ / | ^ / |
12I might be driven to sell your love for peace,F
^ / | ^ / | ^ / | ^ / | ^ ^ / |
13Or trade the memory of this night for foodG

^ / | ^ / | ^ / | ^ / | ^ / |
14It well may be I do not think I would. G
* Line 1-6 are composed with Iambic pentameters, which are ten syllables for each line in five Iambic pairs. * Line 7 is mostly Iambic with the
last feet being Anapest. * Line 8 is the most complexe, the foot division are: Iamb, Iamb, Trochee, Trochee, Anapest. * Line 9-11 are composed with Iambic pentameters as well, line 9 and 11 both have a significant pause at the end. * Line 12 has 4 feet of Iamb and one feet of Anapest directly in the middle. * Line 13 has 4 feet of Iamb ended with a feet of Anapest. * Line 14 is a Iambic pentamerter.

The Rhyme scheme is ABAB, CDCD, EFEF, GG.

Write a Short Essay

Love is Not All, Or is It?

In Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sonnet “Love is Not All’, the speaker depicts that love isn’t the most important thing in life, but you would do anything for it. In the first half, Millay declares that love is useless and unsubstantial to life’s requirement. The second half of the sonnet successfully outshines the previous half because although she has shown that love isn’t needed to live, Millay makes it clear that life isn’t worth living without it. Furthermore, love is not something that will help you physically; however, it always goes back to the fact that it’s the most influential and overpowering thing over you.

Millay elaborates on the aspect of love, love can’t do everything, love can’t save a life, nor be a shelter or a doctor. Each section of the sonnet reflects a human need: food, shelter, health and emotion. Love cannot fill our stomach with “meat” (1) nor can it hydrate us, as illustrated by “drink” (1). Also, love will not regenerate a worn out man from “slumber” (2) and sure won’t offer shelter or a “roof against the rain”(2). Millay effectively shows that love is worthless on a physical level: as love can’t offer a man in peril a life saving “floating spar” (3), offer the precious air our lungs need to breathe, heal our body from illness nor “clean the blood” (6) or fix the broken bones.

Millay writes: “I might be driven to sell your love for peace / Or trade the memory of this night for food” (12-13), to produce a scenario in which she is forced to choose between love and life. The imagery you imagine reading this sonnet is very concrete, even spine-tingling at times; therefore, far from the sweet sentimental ones normally associated with love sonnets. Love, as described by Millay, seems almost as if it’s worth nothing.

For all the things that love cannot do, the author insists that we still need love to live. Millay makes it evident when she writes: “Yet many a man is making friends with death / Even as I speak, for lack of love alone” (7-8), trying to give her readers the point of view that men can die without love. A lovelorn man is closer to death. Line eight really changes the direction of this sonnet because at first, Millay’s definition of love was worthless and now the reader notices that she starts restoring the significant importance of love.

The next lines begin with “It well may be” (9), which introduces the reader to a hypothetical situation being “Pinned down by pain and moaning for release / Or nagged by want past resolution’s power” (10-11). These two lines influence how the reader portrays love because nothing is more important, then filling that hole in our heart when love is missing. At the end of the sonnet, Millay offers a plausible solution to fill her human needs as she “might be driven to sell your love for peace” (12) for it would release her from the horrible pains. She might “trade the memory of this night for food” (13) to feed her starving stomach. For all that love is, Millay reveals everything when she writes: “It well may be I do not think I would” (14) meaning that love is not all, but she would rather be dead than not have it.

What exactly is love? It is the hardest emotion to control, one does not simply choose whom to love, it just happens. Love’s not something you can see or touch, but you are well aware when love touches you. Love is not all, it doesn’t answer to life’s requirements; however, love is indispensable to meet those requirements and live peacefully. While reading Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sonnet “Love is Not All” the reader realizes that love is so powerful and rewarding. In an attempt to bring agreement between love and life, Millay chooses love because life is nothing without love.

Work Cited

Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Love is Not All” (456)

Cite this essay

A Poem Love Is Not All, or Is It. (2017, Mar 30). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/a-poem-love-is-not-all-or-is-it-essay

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