Spirituality and Edna St. Vincent Millay's Works Essay

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The assimilation of human feeling with nature impacted the writings of Edna St. Vincent Millay throughout the entirety of her career. At an early age, on the coast of Maine, Millay had a quasi-religious experience while nearly drowning, that when written down ten years later became the foundation of one of her most staggering works, “Renascence.” The way in which Millay confronts and interacts with nature, namely the sky, is unnerving, raw, and beautiful. She transcends time and is enabled to take part in an empathetic experience with the entirety of what she perceives around her. This poem serves as a precursor to later poems that deal with the human and its counterpart in existence, nature. Over the course of her work, Millay was …show more content…
“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 and a bay.” An analysis by Anne Cheney speaks to this passage saying, “ The narrator in “Renascence,” as she stares out at the distant island, wonders if she will ever escape the confinement and boredom of her home.” The pressure of this recognition finally becomes apparent and causes fear that is palpable and real: “ The sky, I thought is not so grand; I ‘most could touch it with my hand! And reaching up my hand to try, I screamed, to feel it with the sky.” The scream makes manifest that isolation of man, when confronted with the finality and power of mortality. Again Cheney’s criticism alludes to this confrontation of man with nature as being a spiritual one, “As the sky seems to close in on her, she perhaps wishes for a spiritual death.” In the criticism of Elizabeth Atkins, she also confronts the subject of the power and the impact of this realization, “ It is the sky that weighs on Millay, too, but how much heavier it is! It is the universe itself, focused on her un-enduring consciousness.”

Millay strives forward from her place of acknowledgment and fear of her fragility and vulnerability, into a meditative and omniscient plane where she is enabled to see the larger view. “…experiencing a symbolic death, she

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