“Elegy” is the last of five poems in a sequence entitled “Memorial to D.C. (Vassar College, 1918).” It is in commemoration of Dorothy Coleman, one of Millay’s classmates who died in the 1918 flu epidemic. The sequence begins with a four-line introduction:
Oh, loveliest throat of all sweet throats,
Where now no more the music is,
With hands that wrote you little notes
I write you little elegies!
The sequence is both an elegy and a tribute to a friend Millay admired. In the first four poems, she describes Dorothy, who loved roses and danced in colorful “fragrant gowns,” as “proud and wild, /Flippant, arrogant and free. She also refers to a moment in the friendship when Dorothy briefly rejected her. (After the poem appeared, Dorothy’s mother wrote and asked her to revise or remove that section, though she later retracted her request, saying the “wonderful tenderness” of the sequence was a comfort.)
In Part V below, which is often considered a stand-alone poem, the poet expresses her grief at the loss of her young friend and her sadness that Dorothy’s voice will never “be heard again.” She will live on in the cycles of nature, Millay writes, “On and on and eternally,” but even that cannot restore the sound of her sweet song.
-Holly Peppe, Literary Executor