On February 22nd, 1892, Edna St. Vincent Millay was born in Rockland, Maine. Her father, Henry Tolman Millay, worked in an insurance business, and her mother, Cora Buzzell Millay worked as a nurse. Unfortunately, her parents divorced when was eight years old, and her mother was left to raise Edna and her two other sisters. Throughout her childhood, Millay was always encouraged to receive an education and taught to value culture and literature. Thus, Millay learned to speak six different languages and studied piano and theater.
Originally, Millay desired to pursue a career as a concert pianist, however she turned to writing after her instructor discouraged her by saying her hands were far to fall for a concert pianist. Millay first began to become known as a poet in 1912 when she entered her poem, Renascence, in The Lyric Year contest, where she won fourth place. However, it was argued that her poem was far superior than the rest, even the first and second place winners agreed.
Thus, Millay continued to write and become known for her works about feminism and love. One such poem being, I Dreamed I Moved Among the Elysian Fields, which will be analyzed in this essay. The poem I Dreamed I Moved Among the Elysian Fields seems like a women proclaim her love for her man even though he has had many lovers, yet by incorporating Millay’s feminist beliefs and values, it is evident to be a satire to men and their infidelities as well as the social belief at the time that men can do as they please, while women are demoralized and valued under men.
Undeniably, this theme could not be achieved without the use of literary devices such as, allusion, symbols, and satire.
Throughout, the entirety of this poem allusion can be seen. It is first seen in the first line, “I dreamed I moved among the Elysian fields,”. Elysian fields is a refers to a location in Greek Mythology. Elysium is believed to be the highest level in heaven that granted to those who have served one or many gods well. Thus, setting the stage for this poem. Allusion can further be observed when Millay writes, “Of golden Jove, I saw, and at her side,”. Once again, Greek Mythology is portrayed by mentioning Jove. Jove is one of the many names given to the Greek god Zeus, the ruler of the Olympians and the heavens. Moreover, allusion is used in yet again in the lines, “Danai, that was the vessel for a day… Europa stood, and the Swan’s featherless bride.” All of these women, are figures in Greek mythology that in one way or another that Zeus has crossed paths with. Allusion plays a fundamental role in developing the theme of this poem, for Zeus, who is married to Hera, the goddess of marriage and family, is known as a playboy in Greek Mythology and he has slept with or raped the women, some of which are married, mentioned in the poem and many more.
Thus, demonstrating the little respect men have for women as well as infidelity. Moreover, symbolism is also seen in this poem. The line “Whom Jove the Bull desired and bore away,” mentions Jove the Bull, which refers to Zeus. Furthermore, Zeus himself symbolizes infidelity. Lastly, even though this poem seems to symbolize the love a woman feels for a man and her loyalty to him, even when he has other women, one must delve into Edna St. Vincent Millay’s background to understand the true meaning of this poem. Therefore, when remembering that Millay was a strong feminist, the entire meaning of the poem changes. Thus, where the literary device satire comes into play. The line, “Freely I walked beside them and at ease,
Addressing them, by them again addressed,”, displays that the narrator is okay with speaking with the mistresses of the man she loves, when in normal circumstances that would not be the case. Therefore, this line among others giving this poem a happy go lucky, relaxed, and peaceful tone, which is not what a woman would actually feel like when conversing with her man’s mistresses. Proving that this poem is a satire of men who have mistresses and belittle their wives. All in all, the poem I Dreamed I Moved Among Elysian explores the themes of infidelity and shames men who are unfaithful. Edna St. Vincent Millay achieves through the use of allusion with Greek mythological figures and symbolism, who symbolize infidelity. As well as, creating a mockery of this of men who are adulterous through the use of satire.