Sunday, December 2, 2012

Time Does Not Bring Relief: You All Have Lied

In Horace's ode 1.24, he reminds Vergil that all things pass with time, even grief. This seems to be a universally parroted maxim, yet Edna St. Vincent Millay boldly denies this in her poem for which this post is titled: 

Time does not bring relief: you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year's leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year's bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide. 
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go,--so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, "There is no memory of him here!"
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.

Reading the poem, one wonders whether time may really bring relief. Perhaps, Edna didn't wait long enough, perhaps Vergil kept waiting and lamenting his dear Quintilius 'til he himself was lamented. The wound may cease to hurt, but the scar remains. Do we moderns, perhaps, in our hubris and quick escapes from suffering expect that emotional suffering should be the same as physical suffering? Short and without trace.

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