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Poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay


The Singing-Woman from the Woods Edge


What should I be but a prophet and a liar,
Whose mother was a leprechaun, whose father was a friar?
Teethed on a crucifix and cradled under water,
What should I be but the fiends god-daughter?

And who should be my playmates but the adder and the frog,
That was got beneath a furze-bush and born in a bog?
And what should be my singing, that was christened at an altar,
But Aves and Credos and Psalms out of the Psalter?

You will see such webs on the wet grass, maybe,
As a pixie-mother weaves for her baby,
You will find such flame at the waves weedy ebb
As flashes in the meshes of a mer-mothers web,

But there comes to birth no common spawn
From the love a a priest for a leprechaun,
And you never have seen and you never will see
Such things as the things that swaddled me!

After alls said and after alls done,
What should I be but a harlot and a nun?

In through the bushes, on any foggy day,
My Da would come a-swishing of the drops away,
With a prayer for my death and a groan for my birth,
A-mumbling of his beads for all that he was worth.

And thered sit my Ma, with her knees beneath her chin,
A-looking in his face and a-drinking of it in,
And a-marking in the moss some funny little saying
That would mean just the opposite of all that he was praying!

He taught me the holy-talk of Vesper and of Matin,
He heard me my Greek and he heard me my Latin,
He blessed me and crossed me to keep my soul from evil,
And we watched him out of sight, and we conjured up the devil!

Oh, the things I havent seen and the things I havent known,
What with hedges and ditches till after I was grown,
And yanked both way by my mother and my father,
With a Which would you better? and a  Which would you
rather?

With him for a sire and her for a dam,
What should I be but just what I am?



Edna St. Vincent Millay


Edna St. Vincent Millay's other poems:
  1. The Return from Town
  2. To S. M.
  3. Journey
  4. When the Year Grows Old
  5. Inland


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