First Fig:

My candle burns at both ends;

It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends-

It gives a lovely light!

~~ Edna St. Vincent Millay ~~

Edna St. Vincent Millay was a famous member of the modernist movement which changed the way poetry was written in the early 20th century. Unlike her contemporaries, Millay preferred to write in the traditional meter and rhyme, although the subjects of her poetry were astonishing and eye popping for the times.

She didn`t flinch from writing about the reality of the days she lived in, politics, social and class issues, freeing women from the roles society had set them, and the stupidity and futility of war, all came within the firing line of her busy pen as it burned it`s way across the page.

Women`s sexuality was a thing to celebrate and set free from the bondage of an oppressive, patriarchal society which also denied women the right to vote: she saw this as obviously wrong, and set about making her views known in no uncertain manner. And what a champion for the rights of women, and of any problem in the world which she thought should be amended and reformed she was.

Perhaps her most famous poem is entitled, `First Fig. It`s very short on words and deceptively simple at first sight, but like all great literary works, a surfeit of verbiage is no substitute for genius. Whereas your average scribbler will run out of ink going round the houses until they`ve filled the page, Millay tells it like it is in four short lines.

She`s telling us to live for the day, to the fullest, be adventurous; burn that candle at both ends, because being alive is party time, and you only get one shot. The candle flame isn`t going to blaze forever, the good times won`t last; so put on your glad rags and hit the target before it moves off round the block and out of your life forever.

Edna knows you can`t keep the fast pace up forever, but enjoy the ride while it lasts and you`l have happy memories to fall back on when you`re finally too old to cut the mustard. At the end she tells us that…….`it gives a lovely light!` As much as to say let the good times roll until they run out of track, because they`re still worth enjoying in the moment.


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