Feast by Edna st. Vincent Millay
Feast by Edna St Vincent Millay
I drank at every vine.
The last was like the first.
I came upon no wine
So wonderful as thirst.
I gnawed at every root.
I ate of every plant.
I came upon no fruit
So wonderful as want.
Feed the grape and bean
To the vintner and monger:
I will lie down lean
With my thirst and my hunger
Edna Millay is an American poet and is considered as the first woman poet who won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in America.
The poem ‘Feast’ is one of the shortest poems in Edna’s collection of writing. Yet it carries a universal meaning. It contains three stanzas with four lines in each. And all three stanzas express a specific aspect related to the overall idea of the poem. Though Edna belonged to modern poetry in this poem there can be seen some effects of traditional poetry.
The title itself is ironical. As we all know Feast is a grand meal. It is enriched with more and more food. So it suggests a great quantity of food. Furthermore the images of wine, roots and plants can suggest an idyllic ancient feast that may have taken place in biblical times in ancient times. But when we go through the poem it is clearly evident the fact that it is not about a plenty of food and it is about hunger and thirst of the human beings. The poem reflects on human life especially the basic needs of human beings which are hunger and thirst.
According to the first stanza we see the common nature of beverages with its ability to quench the thirst. In Western countries it is natural that they take wine during the process of a banquet. In a well developed country like America it is very common. But for the poet there was no wine though she drank at every vine creeper. Though the vineyards are surrounded her life she is powerless to taste a delicious wine due to her poverty.
In the second stanza too the poet continues the same idea in the title which associates with the lavish spread of food. The idea of food is suggested through the word of ‘fruit’. We see the poet’s desire to taste all. It is suggested through the words of ‘every’. But the circumstances are more powerful than her needs. It is her poverty that abandoned her to make successful her need. She has to gnaw at roots like a beggar. The word ‘wonderful’ in both first and the second stanzas can suggest hunger and thirst of human beings which make them to survive on the world. Furthermore it is a natural right of them.
The last stanza summarizes the poet’s philosophical message. She answers the question of why millions of people are suffering due to hunger and thirst. It is due to commercialization and people gain more and more profit from these materialistic possessions. Gaining profit has become more powerful than humanity. For example large number of food amounts is wasting today while millions of people are starving. As the poet says for those people who are starving have only one solution which is to ‘lie down and lean’ with their ‘hunger and thirst’.