Lament is a twenty-two line dirge in free verse with one rhyme, at the end of the poem, which is almost certainly intentional. The poem represents a mother’s terse lament over the death of the father of the two children whom she is addressing. More of a soliloquy than a dialogue, one receives the distinct impression that the children may not even be present as the mother announces matter-of-factly that their father is dead, that they must soldier on, and describes the manner in which she will distribute the coins and keys in his pocket to them. The final couplet succinctly sums up the poem’s sentiment:

Life must go on,
And the dead be forgotten;
Life must go on,
Though good men die;
Anne, eat your breakfast;
Dan, take your medicine;
Life must go on;
I forget just why.


Edna St. Vincent Millay was one of the most well known American poets in the first half of the twentieth century, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1923. An ardent feminist, she addressed women’s issues - a widow left alone as a single mother - in this threnody and in other poems, including many sonnets. This is one of many poems she wrote on the subject of death.

Primary Source

Collected Poems: Edna St. Vincent Millay (p. 103-104)


Harper & Brothers

Place Published

New York




Norma Millay

Page Count

xxi + 738