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Blight Analysis

Author: poem of Edna St. Vincent Millay Type: poem Views: 7

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Hard seeds of hate I planted

   That should by now be grown,—

Rough stalks, and from thick stamens

   A poisonous pollen blown,

And odors rank, unbreathable,

   From dark corollas thrown!

At dawn from my damp garden

   I shook the chilly dew;

The thin boughs locked behind me

   That sprang to let me through;

The blossoms slept,—I sought a place

   Where nothing lovely grew.

And there, when day was breaking,

   I knelt and looked around:

The light was near, the silence

   Was palpitant with sound;

I drew my hate from out my breast

   And thrust it in the ground.

Oh, ye so fiercely tended,

   Ye little seeds of hate!

I bent above your growing

   Early and noon and late,

Yet are ye drooped and pitiful,—

   I cannot rear ye straight!

The sun seeks out my garden,

   No nook is left in shade,

No mist nor mold nor mildew

   Endures on any blade,

Sweet rain slants under every bough:

   Ye falter, and ye fade.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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Blight: An analysis of a poem with an extended metaphor
Edna St. Vincent Millay began writing poetry at a young age and continued producing masterful works until she died in 1950. In her later years, Millay devoted herself to bird-watching and gardening, and these hobbies were clearly reflected in her poems, such as “Blight.” “Blight” is a poem that used an extended metaphor of plant blight in a garden to compare the blight, hatred in Millay’s soul to a destructive disease that ravages gardens. Many times, sometimes subtly, sometimes explicitly, Millay uses this perfect marriage between the material garden in blight and the deeply psychological phenomenon of hatred to teach her readers some very important ideas about hatred. Hate is not just a result of someone doing something deserving of negative feelings directed towards them, rather, hate is a profound object that is just as much the fault of the person directing the feelings as the person that the feelings are directed towards.
Unlike other extended metaphor poems, in “Blight,” Millay states the metaphor in the first two lines of the text, “Hard seeds of hate I planted that should by now be grown.” The disease had started its reign over the garden; none of the plants were growing. This is the beginning of the process where a person ventures off into the world of hate, preferring the easy course of covering up their numerous flaws that have created a situation of hate by resorting to blaming it all on the other person. This process is the normal reaction to anything that has taken place with negative repercussions. An honest person would understand that his hate is very much a result of his own flaws.
The second stanza strongly supports this idea. “The thin boughs locked behind me that sprang to let me through.” The branches sprang to let her through. The option of hating was clearly the easiest. Requiring the least thought and work towards personal growth, it was definitely the most inviting. Once she started hating, the branches locked behind her. After already venturing down the road of hate, one will have a much more difficult time doing anything else because leaving the road of hate generally requires getting over ego and making up, sometimes including a face-to-face apology, something that can be extremely difficult. The stanza finishes off, “I sought a place where nothing lovely grew.” She sought this place of hate because anything else would require a lot of self-perfection.
The second stanza represents the bridge from when her hate was strong to when it started to fade. “And there when day was breaking, I knelt and looked around: The light was near, the silence was palpitant with sound; I drew my hate from out my breast and thrust it in the ground.” The way she described the setting made it sound as if she felt like she was being watched as she planted her hate and committed to the emotion. She looked around and checked her surroundings and found it to be quiet. She took the hate and planted it. This is a key part of the metaphor because a big part of hatred is that once you start hating, you have to be committed to it. A plant is the perfect comparison to this because maintaining greenery, especially plants that are affected by an infectious disease, takes a lot of work to follow up one’s commitment to their garden. You can’t hate one day and love the next. It doesn’t work. The hate has a negative effect on the hater, usually even more than on the hated, and the detrimental effects begin to wear the person down.
The third stanza illustrates the point on the timeline where one works hard to try and stay committed to their hate but they find it difficult, and they begin to fail. “Oh, ye so fiercely tended, ye little seeds of hate! I bent above your growing early and noon and late, yet are ye drooped and pitiful, - I cannot rear ye straight.” She was trying hard. Her plants were suffering from plant blight, but she fiercely tended and cared for them early and noon and late but the fading of hate was inevitable. To keep hate alive and strong requires work because eventually a person naturally softens and the will to stick to their commitment dwindles. Despite her hard work, she cannot rear the plant straight.
In the fifth and final stanza, the plant disease began to heal. “The sun seeks out my garden, no nook is left in shade, no mist nor mold nor mildew endures on any blade, sweet rain slants under every bough.” This was the glorious day when the disease faded as the presence of powerful sun and rain took over. The poem ended, “Ye falter and ye fade.” A person’s natural goodness shines through as the sun seeks him out. The hard feelings begin to feel baseless and calmer, happier emotions take reign. The hate falters, and however invincible and all-encompassing it was at a point in time becomes irrelevant. Under normal circumstances, and without new fire added to the furnace, hatred, however powerful it might be, must diminish.
In Blight, Millay did a fantastic job portraying the complex phenomena known to man as hatred. The marriage between plant blight and hatred was perfect. Each and every word in the poem tells us something else about hatred, and it does it in such an extraordinary way that I am positive that it would leave even psychologists who study hatred dumbfounded, giving them new meaning and a new understanding into the commonly misunderstood emotion. Hatred is something that all people have at many points in their lives. As Chuck Palahniuk once said, “When we don’t know who to hate, we hate ourselves.” People need something to let their feelings out on because otherwise their own flaws become evident, but as masterfully depicted in Blight, the same way an infected plant heals, hatred will shrivel until it dies.

| Posted on 2014-01-25 | by a guest

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