By Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)
Love has gone and left me and the days are all alike;
Eat I must, and sleep I will, -- and would that night were here!
But ah! -- to lie awake and hear the slow hours strike!
Would that it were day again! -- with twilight near!
Love has gone and left me and I don't know what to do;
This or that or what you will is all the same to me;
But all the things that I begin I leave before I'm through, --
There's little use in anything as far as I can see.
Love has gone and left me, -- and the neighbors knock and borrow,
And life goes on forever like the gnawing of a mouse, --
And to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow
There's this little street and this little house.
"Ashes of Life" by Edna St. Vincent Millay is a poem that describes the life of a person after it is devoid of love. Its correlation with a "love and death" theme is such that the loss of the aforementioned love causes the poet much grief; the death correlation is purely my own interpretation, as I feel the writer's feelings and emotions regarding her loveless life are like that of someone who has no wish to live. With an attitude like this, death is inevitability after the will to live is lost.
The poem has many mechanical literary devices, but also has some figurative devices as well. Millay uses an abab rhyme scheme, and perhaps this is to add to the attempted feel of droning ennui. For example, "And to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow," (line 11) repeats the same two words four times in succession, but it has the desired effect. The repetition serves to suggest that without love, life has a boring monotony, is dull and commonplace. Millay starts each stanza with the phrase "Love has gone and left me," (lines 1, 5, 9); this inclusion gives the impression that Millay feels like love's absence from her life is its fault instead of her own or that of the person for whom she cared. In that sense, love becomes an assumed apostrophe, if not a written one. "Eat I must, and sleep I will," (line 2) give the impression that the writer will perform tasks mechanically to exist, but that living is not the same without love. Millay uses an allusion to draw the reader into her despair. "But ah!--to lie awake and hear the slow hours strike!" (line 4). Obviously, the hours themselves are not 'striking,' so this is not only a metaphor, but alludes to the presence of a clock, chiming the hours away as the poet lies sleepless.