Millay’s “Conscientious Objector” on International Conscientious Objectors Day

by Kim on May 15, 2014

Today (May 15th) is International Conscientious Objectors Day. Howard Zinn (1922-2010), the American historian, author, and activist, wrote: “They have the guns, we have the poets. Therefore, we will win.” Here is one of our poets, Edna St. Vincent Millay, in her poem “Conscientious Objector”.

I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death.

I hear him leading his horse out of the stall;
I hear the clatter on the barn-floor.
He is in haste; he has business in Cuba, business in the Balkans,
many calls to make this morning.
But I will not hold the bridle while he clinches the girth.
And he may mount by himself: I will not give him a leg up.

Though he flick my shoulders with his whip,
I will not tell him which way the fox ran.
With his hoof on my breast,
I will not tell him where the black boy hides in the swamp.
I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death;
I am not on his pay-roll.

I will not tell him the whereabouts of my friends nor of my enemies either.
Though he promise me much, I will not map him the route to any man’s door.

Am I a spy in the land of the living, that I should deliver men to Death?
Brother, the password and the plans of our city are safe with me;
never through me
Shall you be overcome.

Edna St. Vincent Millay, Selected Poems (New York: Perennial Classics, 1999), p. 103.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }


Mark Byron 05.29.14 at 12:53 pm

“How many divisions does the poet have?”
“Those aren’t divisions, those are stanzas.”

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>