The Weekly Bleat: Remembering Maine and Edna St. Vincent Millay
I would like to dedicate this post to my husband’s 102 year-old grandfather. He is affectionately known as “Bump” or “Bumpy” to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, because he always bumped foreheads to say goodnight when tucking them into bed at the family’s summer retreat in Maine. “Camp,” as this summer place is lovingly called, has been an important part of a summertime ritual for my husband’s family for about five generations. I’m thankful to have had the good fortune to take part in this beautiful tradition over the years. And, I’m appreciative to “Bump” for introducing me to the beauty of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poetry.
I first discovered the poet, Millay during one of our summer visits to Maine. My husband and I were on a day trip with his Gran and Bump visiting Mount Battie as well as Camden, Maine–Millay’s hometown. There’s a poem that she wrote in 1912 about the view from atop Mount Battie called, “Renascence.” Millay was just a girl, winning fourth place in a poetry contest for this poem and later a scholarship to Vassar College. She went on to win the Pulitzer prize for poetry in 1923.
On the day we visited Mount Battie, Bump recited the poem, “Renascence.” Later that week, while visiting an antiques store, I found an old copy of one of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s books of poetry containing that very same poem.
These wonderful paintings of “Camp” are by our talented friend and artist, Donna Whitmore Tuten. Donna was so gracious to create these paintings for Bump’s 100th birthday from photographs of the main cottage at Camp, Tara Loon as well as Bump “instructing” his grandsons on proper dock installation.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay
All I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked another way,
And saw three islands in a bay.
So with my eyes I traced the line
Of the horizon, thin and fine,
Straight around till I was come
Back to where I’d started from,
And all I saw from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood.
Since Bump’s introduction of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poetry, I’ve found that I really love her work. I particularly like the following whimsical poem as well as the quirky nature and free spirit of the poem’s subject. The part that begins, “She digs in her garden..” is my favorite. Enjoy!
Portrait By A Neighbor
~Edna St. Vincent Millay
Before she has her floor swept
Or her dishes done,
Any day you’ll find her
A-sunning in the sun!
It’s long after midnight
Her key’s in the lock,
And you never see her chimney smoke
Till past ten o’clock!
She digs in her garden
With a shovel and a spoon,
She weeds her lazy lettuce
By the light of the moon,
She walks up the walk
Like a woman in a dream,
She forgets she borrowed butter
And pays you back cream!
Her lawn looks like a meadow,
And if she mows the place
She leaves the clover standing
And the Queen Anne’s lace!