“I Shall Forget You Presently, My Dear” one of Millay’s signature sonnets, appeared in a chapbook edition of A Few Figs From Thistles in 1920 and in an expanded edition published by Harper & Row two years later. In the poem, a woman poet taunts her suitor with declarations of her independence, echoing Shakespeare’s line from Hamlet, “The lady protests much, methinks,” with her own, “I will protest you with my favorite vow.” In the end, a most unromantic final couplet gives her the last word on the relationship (and leaves her lover little room for passion): “Whether or not we find what we are seeking / Is idle, biologically speaking.” As in many of her sonnets about love and relationships, Millay breaks the love poetry tradition of the male suitor in charge and redefines romance from a female point of view.
-Holly Peppe, Literary Executor
I Shall Forget You Presently, My Dear
I shall forget you presently, my dear,
So make the most of this, your little day,
Your little month, your little half a year,
Ere I forget, or die, or move away,
And we are done forever; by and by
I shall forget you, as I said, but now,
If you entreat me with your loveliest lie
I will protest you with my favorite vow.
I would indeed that love were longer-lived,
And vows were not so brittle as they are,
But so it is, and nature has contrived
To struggle on without a break thus far,
Whether or not we find what we are seeking
Is idle, biologically speaking.
The Society's mission is to illuminate the life and writings of Edna St. Vincent Millay and to preserve and interpret the character of Steepletop, her home and gardens, places where nature inspires the creative spirit.