Afternoon on a Hill by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Purple Hydrangeas

This morning, I explored the origins of poetry.

Poetry was first heard through voice, rather than read from the pages of a book. It was an oral tradition. Poetry was the record-keeper of human experience, knowledge, and belief systems. As language developed, storytellers traveled from place to place reciting stories and collecting new legends and tales.

We are influenced by the ancients, even as we gather our stories into the chronicle of history.

As I recited Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem, “Afternoon on a Hill” the question that came to mind was: Are poets influenced by poets who came before? The answer is a resounding yes!

For example, Mary Oliver was profoundly influenced by Edna St. Vincent Millay when she lived for a brief time in Millay’s home helping Edna’s sister, Norma, sort Edna’s papers. Robert Frost influenced Edna St Vincent Millay. Going back further, Robert Frost was influenced by Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke, and Robert Graves. Robert Graves was influenced by Siegfried Sassoon, Johann Jakob Bachofen, and W.H.R. Rivers. And so on…

Perhaps the most vital question is, who influences our creative spirit?

Join me in reciting “Afternoon on a Hill” by Edna St. Vincent Millay, imagining that we are hearing the summer sounds on a late afternoon.

Afternoon on a Hill

By Edna St. Vincent Milly

Purple Hydrangeas

I will be the gladdest thing
    Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
    And not pick one.

I will look at cliffs and clouds
    With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
    And the grass rise.

And when lights begin to show
    Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,
    And then start down!

Purple Hydrangeas

Published by Rebecca Budd

Blogger, Visual Storyteller, Podcaster, Traveler and Life-long Learner

35 thoughts on “Afternoon on a Hill by Edna St. Vincent Millay

    1. Thank you so much for your support and encouragement of my “poetry journey” Robbie. I have enjoyed Edna St Vincent Millay’s poetry ever since my high school days. When she lived in New York (1917), she learned to use her poetry to explore feminist activism. In 1936, She had a terrible car accident which damaged nerves in her spine. Even after many surgeries she lived in constant pain for the rest of her life. Even so, she use poetry to combat the rise of fascism. Her life was complex which influenced her poetry.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. We have been in a heat wave these past days. When I found a place where the wind cooled a walkway in a nearby garden, I had to stop and enjoy the moment. That was when I remembered Edna’s poem. What most people forget was Edna’s activism. She was a social figure and feminist in New York City during the Roaring 20’s. Regrettably, a road accident in 1936 left her a partial invalid. I smile when I read that professional critics seem to think her poetry sentimental. Robert Frost was a good friend. And if Robert Frost thought Edna was brilliant, I would tend to believe his judgment.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Undoubtedly, with inspiration from the past, humans have been complementing themselves throughout time, at least as far as arts are concerned. Thank you, dear Rebecca, for this beautiful poem.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Many thanks for stopping by!! I have started Nancy Milford’s biography of Edna entitled “Savage Beauty” which explores her extraordinary life. She was complex, an activist and feminist, which influenced her writing.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Marvellous. Another poet I don’t know – so far … I wonder if poets are more influenced by the styles which evolve as they too grow and develop as poets, rather than their being influenced by any individual poet? An interesting question …

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Margaret – you would enjoy Edna’s poetry. I remember the first time I met her in my high school literature class. She is best known for this poem.

      “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, A Few Figs from Thistles

      Thank you for stopping by!!!!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank yo so much for your heartwarming comments. Sorry for my late response. I have travelled to Squamish British Columbia to attend the wedding of my niece so have been in and out of Wi-Fi. Time goes fast – I remember the day she was born…. Life goes zoom zoom.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. This is a splendidly lovely poem, and Rebecca, your reading is superb!

    Yes, who inspires creativity, and also what.
    As in this poem flowers and nature have inspired, as well as who came before her.

    Both sides of my family are NOT creative. They came from poor stock. Creativity was considered for rich folks kids.
    We had to be practical, which at times requires that creative part of the brain to work.
    However, I was not allowed to be creative. NO piano lessons. NO tap dance lessons.. NO art lessons.
    In my rebellious heart and mind, I found that inspiring. I would do the opposite.

    Poetry played a big part of my early creating. Yes, I wrote poems for presents. (unappreciated)
    I was reading all kinds of poets, my favourite being EBB, Sonnets From The Portuguese.

    Then music found its way into me. Then the musicians. Then I just mushroomed. No area of creation was out of bounds.
    Now, here I am with you! {{hugs}}

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Many, many thanks for your insightful comments about creativity, Resa. I agree wholeheartedly that “no area of creation was out of bounds.” We are filled with a spirit to express emotional nuances that fill our lives with hope, beauty, love. The other day in a comment, you asked me to recite Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem Sonnet 43 “How Do I Love Thee.” I had recited this poem a few months ago to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Initially, I hesitated to recite it because there is so much meaning in these words that I knew that I would shed a few tears, which I did. Here is the link to the recording. I hope that you like it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hahaha! How did I not remember. I suppose I just can’t get enough of your recitations.… I had to laugh at my comment. I’m laughing now. 😂🤣
        But boy, was he CUTE!

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you for reciting this short poem, words very well chosen! She may have been very difficult to work with, but especially gifted with words as demonstrated in this short poem and confirmed by the many rewards she received. And, yes, we are very much influenced by those in our past and ever those in our present experience! Thank you, also for posting the beautiful art that you have filmed in your travels.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am delighted that you enjoyed this poetry recitation, Frances. Edna did not have an easy life. Her accident left her a partial invalid and pain accompanied her for the rest of her life. You would be interested to know that she wanted to be a concert pianist, but her music teacher said that her hands were too small. That is when she changed direction and became a poet/writer instead. Isn’t it interesting how we plan and then life happens to move us to another pathway.

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: