Thoughts on “Recuerdo” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Recuerdo by Edna St. Vincent Millay

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.
We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.
We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed, “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

(You can see the full poem online at the Poetry Foundation as well.)

I think the first time I read this poem was in my advanced poetry writing class in college. Scratch that, it was my New York City Studies class where we studied NYC from the consolidation of the five boroughs in 1898 through the present. So instead of talking about the most productive writing class of my academic career (where I produced some of the poems that are still my favorite, not to mention prize winners) I will tell you how awesome it is to take a class about NYC when you have lived in NYC your entire life.

It was great and it led to one of the most refined research papers of my academic career which won not only a special award for the type of class but was also presented at my college’s society of fellows. Because yes, I am that person. (I fear these poetry posts are making be seem unbearably stuffy. Forgive me!)

Although I haven’t read a lot of her other works, I’ve always liked this poem. It has a great cadence and I adore the imagery. To this day if I am having a not-so-good-day I might remark that I am very tired but not particularly merry.

This poet (and I think this poem though it’s been a while and I might be wrong) also feature heavily in Elizabeth Wein’s novel Rose Under Fire which, I think, is why this happened on Twitter one time: