Loving You Less Than Life, a Little Less

Loving You Less Than Life, a Little Less

By Edna St. Vincent Millay

Loving you less than life, a little less
Than bitter-sweet upon a broken wall
Or brush-wood smoke in autumn, I confess
I cannot swear I love you not at all.
For there is that about you in this light—
A yellow darkness, sinister of rain—
Which sturdily recalls my stubborn sight
To dwell on you, and dwell on you again.
And I am made aware of many a week
I shall consume, remembering in what way
Your brown hair grows about your brow and cheek
And what divine absurdities you say:
Till all the world, and I, and surely you,
Will know I love you, whether or not I do.

Summary of Loving You Less Than Life, a Little Less

  • Popularity of “Loving You Less Than Life, a Little Less”: Published in the 19th century, “Loving You Less Than Life, a Little Less” by Edna St. Vincent Millay, an American lyrical poet is a love poem. The poem unfolds the idea of secret love with a special focus on the speaker’s struggle. It also presents her futile attempts to hide her feelings and emotions. The popularity of the poem lies in its representation of love as an unstoppable force.
  • “Loving You Less Than Life, a Little Less” As a Representative of Love: This poem revolves around the speaker’s inability to convey her unique feelings to her lover. It begins when she directly addresses her lover and says she may love him a little. Instead of expressing her emotions openly, the speaker uses clever syntax and confusing statements to reflect the key idea of the poem. As the poem continues, she sheds light on the qualities of her lover. To her, thinking about him brings her both pleasure and joy as she compares his memories to rain and light. However, she seems immovable when she starts thinking about him. In the final part of the poem, she explains how she keeps on revolving around his sweet memories most of the time. However, even after explaining her inner desires, she hesitates to admit it openly that she loves him the most.
  • Major Themes in “Loving You Less Than Life, a Little Less”: Love, hesitation, and expression are the major themes of the poem. The poem centers on a shy person whose life is marked by the magic of love, but she hesitates to admit it. The speaker beautifully plays with words to explain her feelings. The clever use of linguistic tricks allows her to speak her heart. In other words, the speaker tries to talk about the people who secretly burn the candle of love in their hearts and do not muster up the courage to take their feelings to the limelight. They remain under the shadow of unknown fear and never reveal their secrets to the world.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Loving You Less Than Life, a Little Less

literary devices are powerful tools. They allow the writers to convey their ideas and emotions effectively. Edna St. Vincent Millay, too, also used literary devices in the poem whose analysis is as follows.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /e/ in “A yellow darkness, sinister of rain” and the sound of /o/ in “Your brown hair grows about your brow and cheek.”
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession, such as the sound of /s/ in “my stubborn sight” and the sound of /l/ in “a little less.”
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /r/ in “Your brown hair grows about your brow and cheek” and the sound of /t/ in “For there is that about you in this light.”
  4. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example;

“And I am made aware of many a week
I shall consume, remembering in what way
Your brown hair grows about your brow and cheek
And what divine absurdities you say:”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. The writer has used imagery in this poem, such as; “To dwell on you, and dwell on you again”, “Your brown hair grows about your brow and cheek” and “Till all the world, and I, and surely you.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects different in nature. The poet has used love as an extended metaphor to show how it puts a person in a difficult situation.
  3. Paradox: A paradox is a statement that may seem contradictory but can be true. The poet used this device throughout the poem. She wants to express her love but is unable to do so. Her words show extreme paradox because she intends to express her love, yet her confession is marked with hesitations and reluctance.
  4. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The poem shows symbols such as expression, hidden love, hesitation, and inability to express something.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Loving You Less Than Life, a Little Less

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: The poem shows descriptive diction having rhetorical devices, symbolism, and impressive images.
  2. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. The writer has used end rhyme in this poem, such as; “wall/all”, “light/sight” and “cheek/week.”
  3. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows an ABAB rhyme scheme, and this pattern continues till the end.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are twelve lines in this poem with no stanza break.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote while expressing their precious feelings for someone.

“Loving you less than life, a little less
Than bitter-sweet upon a broken wall
Or brush-wood smoke in autumn, I confess
I cannot swear I love you not at all.”