Millay was also a philosopher. Her literary work features five plays in verse, including Conversations at Midnight, where a group of men conduct an after-dinner Platonic dialogue over whiskey and cigars, discussing politics, art, and other topics. The play has an interesting history. Millay wrote a draft of it while on a road trip in Florida with her husband in 1936. The two of them checked into their room at a hotel and went for a walk. As they returned from their stroll, they noticed a column of smoke rising in the air. The hotel had burned down, along with her manuscript. Millay had to recreate the entire script from memory.
Fascinating that she uses "rise" for the moon in line 1 and not "rises." I think she is addressing the moon—"you that rise." What is so haunting for me about this poem is that Millay refuses a sloppy faith in a caring divinity she cannot see in the skies. But this is not a bleak world she describes, despite the absence of a god or goddess to protect us. There are sagging fences and chipping window sills and tears of pity for the millennia of ignorance that came before. But Millay balances those imperfections with the plenitude of a twilight where the moon floats upward as “the cool sky fills/With planets and brighter stars...”
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