The poet Edna Vincent Millay uses vivid words and phrases that bring out her attempts to cope with betrayal. This poem is her actual experience as she is trying to move on after the treachery she has faced. She is talks about love, how according to her it comes and goes away so quickly. The repetition of the words ‘Pity me not’ does affect the structure of the verse. The reader is confused whether she wants them to pity her, or she herself is lost while muddling through this mess. The tone changes subtly as the poem mirrors the ‘head v/s heart’ situation.
The tone of the very first quatrain is rational. It illustrates that the fluctuation of ‘ups and downs’ are routine in life. The natural images created by the poet, for instance, the sun which is associated to warmth, “Pity me not because the light of day” reveal emotions and warmth of love. “At close of day no longer walks the sky” and as the sun goes, it returns the next day. “Pity me not the waning of the moon,” this describes the different phases of the moon, the loss of romance and magic crucial in a relationship. These vivacious images help to show a pattern, a natural cyclic process.
She continues to be very rational in the second quatrain but as it progresses it becomes emotional as she involves personal matters. She voices “Pity me not for beauties passed away” by which she means that beauty fades with age as nothing lasts forever. “From field to thicket as the year goes by;” Something very important she indirectly points out that one needs to give time and attention when in a relationship.
She also expresses the tides like physical fervor and when the tide withdraws, resulting a dying of passion. “Nor that the ebbing tide goes out to sea.” “Nor that a man’s desire is hushed so soon.” this implies that the love fades away. She makes an attempt to generalize in line 8, “And you no longer look with love on me.” But she feels that life has both positive as well as the negative aspects of it, but love is just momental and losing things is a part of life.
Then the violent images in quatrain 3 express her agitation, her emotions “strewing fresh wreckage”. “This have I known always: Love is no more” influences her conception of love that it is fragile just like the blossom but the wind crushes it. “Than the wide blossom which the wind assails.” “Than the great tide that treads the shifting shore.” This line describes the love that destroys, that is uncertain, the love ‘shifts’. The emotional pattern reflects the images just like a cry of pain.
The climax of the poem is the last two lines of the poem, the Couplet, “Pity me that the heart is slow to learn/ When the swift mind beholds at every turn.” This shows that she is extremely exhausted. The first words of the couplet link in with the rest of the poem, and what the first line of the couplet suggests about the poet’s past experience. The mind knows all this but the heart continues to love.
The sonnet form is the Shakespearian form with four quatrains and a rhyming couplet at the end. The way the poem is written and structured with regard to style enhances the fact that she tries to cope with betrayal. Her tools are vivid figurative imagery, setting a mood and tone, by controlling the pace and how the atmosphere created. The harsh alliterations “Strewing fresh wreckage” illustrates her pain and what she is going through. The fact that she uses simple vocabulary also signifies that she doesn’t want to pretend anymore.
The regular rhythm and rhyme scheme shows how desperately she’s trying to understand. The poet hints at wider meaning, which she is going through so much but now she wants a steady regular life. The meaning of the antithesis in the last two lines is that she goes against what she had agreed with earlier and the effect of presenting it as she does. She felt that the form enabled the poet to challenge her readers’ presumptions about life.