Pity me not because the light of the day is a sonnet about love, heartbreak and loss. Millay tells the story about heartbreak and the pain one feels during the end of a relationship and the misery it causes. In the beginning, it seems as if the poet is trying to make sense of the breakup but towards the end it gets clear that this is not the case and the poet is sad. She has tried to tell herself that is reasonable but her heart does not listen.
Pity Me Not Because the Light of the Day | Summary and Analysis
Pity Me Not | Analysis, (Line 1-2)
Pity me not because the light of day
At close of day no longer walks the sky;
The sonnet begins with an emphatic command where the speaker insists the reader to not pity her. The reader finds such a request questionable because what is it to pity just because the sun has gone down? The sun goes down, as the evening approaches, every single day. The way the speaker makes the requests has the reader thinking that there is some undertone of something more complicated than what is being portrayed. She does not just say that the sun is setting. Rather, she tells the reader that the light of day is no longer near her. The personification suggests some kind of missing part and not just the absence of the light of the sun.
Pity Me Not | Analysis, (Line 3-4)
Pity me not for beauties passed away
From field and thicket as the year goes by;
The speaker repeats the first line of the poem to emphasize the fact that no matter what, the reader should not feel pity for the speaker’s situation. The speaker mentions an undeniable fact here saying that as the year pass by, the fields and the forests lose their beauty and become bleak and desolate. This is a metaphor for human life because like forests, humans too, lose their beauty with the coming years. This fact, though true, rouses pity and fear in the heart of the reader because the wearing down of a person as years pass by is unavoidable. The reader begins to resonate with the speaker and forms a bond of companionship.
Pity Me Not | Analysis, (Line 5-6)
Pity me not the waning of the moon,
Nor that the ebbing tide goes out to sea,
The emphasis that the speaker repeatedly makes on the phrase “Pity me not” shows that the speaker is persistent to the reader to not feel any kind of pity for the speaker. The speaker further goes on to describe the tide and it shows that the rise and fall of fortunes, times etc. is the most common thing in the life of a person. Just as the tide recedes and increases slowly, so does the time of a person. The reader gets a little confused here because tides are natural phenomenon just as the ups and downs of people, so there is no pity in the reader’s mind. But once again, it feels like there is a more complicated aspect to this that the reader is unable to comprehend till now.
Pity Me Not | Analysis, (Line 7-8)
Nor that a man’s desire is hushed so soon,
And you no longer look with love on me.
The next line finally describes the context in which the poet was talking. The speaker was comparing her situation to that of the tides and forests. The reader finally understands that the speaker is grieving about the loss of a relationship which was clearly very important to her. She is lamenting the fact that her lover is no longer in love with her and that they are separated. The speaker laments the fact that now, when her lover looks at her she is unable to find the look of love that was present before. Despite her request to not pity her, the reader does feel some kind of sadness on behalf of the bond of love that is broken. Often times, one goes through a relationship that does not work and one person ends up getting hurt more. The reader realizes that here, the speaker is that person.
Pity Me Not | Analysis, (Line 9-10)
This have I known always: Love is no more
Than the wide blossom which the wind assails,
The speaker has a melancholic tone while talking now. She says that she knows what love is and how it happens but what she does not understand is that why does love stop. She tells the reader that she knows that there is no love left between her and her lover. She has known the fact always that her and her lover will eventually be separated from each other what she didn’t know was the fact why they would separate. She compares the feeling of love to the blossoms that the wind picks up and they float into the air. This is an example of the impermanence of love. It does not stay at one place for a long time. After it is finished blooming, it gets picked up by some kind of wind and gets placed somewhere else. The speaker is talking about her and her lover’s love in these lines.
Pity Me Not | Analysis, (Line 11-12)
Than the great tide that treads the shifting shore,
Strewing fresh wreckage gathered in the gales:
In the previous lines, the speaker had compared love with the impermanence of wide blossoms. In the next line, she says that she has always knows that love is like the great tide that reaches the ever changing shore. Just as the tides are moving each passing day, sometimes high, sometimes low, so is love. Sometimes love is more, sometimes less. The amount cannot be known but it is ever changing and shifting with each passing day. The speaker is lamenting the fact that some time ago, she and her lover had so much love and she was happy but now, such a time has come that she is not able to find that love anywhere and she feels inconsistent. The anguish that the speaker feels is made clear through these lines and the reader feels san and piteous towards the speaker’s predicament.
Pity Me Not | Analysis, (Line 13-14)
Pity me that the heart is slow to learn
What the swift mind beholds at every turn.
In the end lines, the speaker’s tone confuses the reader because she asks the reader to pity her. While in the earlier lines, the speaker was repeating the phrase ‘pity me not’ here, she asks the reader to take pity on her. But the difference here is that while in the earlier lines, she was asking the reader to not pity her due to the inconsistency of love, whereas in these lines, she asks for the pity of the readers because her heart was not able to understand what her mind knew all along. She tells the reader that her mind and heart don’t agree on the fact that she does not have her lover with her anymore. Therefore, she asks the reader to pity her grieving heart that is slow to learn.
Pity Me Not | About the Author
Edna St. Vincent Millay (February 22, 1892 – October 19, 1950) was an American lyrical poet and playwright. Encouraged to read the classics at home, she was too rebellious to make a success of formal education, but she won poetry prizes from an early age, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1923, and went on to use verse as a medium for her feminist activism. Throughout much of her career, Pulitzer Prize-winner Edna St. Vincent Millay was one of the most successful and respected poets in America. She penned Renascence, one of her most well known poems, and the book The Ballad of the Harp Weaver, for which she won a Pulitzer Prize in 1923.