Second Fig

Second Fig

By Edna St. Vincent Millay

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

Summary of Second Fig

  • Popularity of “Second Fig”: The poem ‘Second Fig’ was written by Edna St. Vincent Millay, an American playwright, and lyrical poet. It was first published in 1922 in her volume, A Second Fig From Thistles. Even though the poem may be brief and concise, its depth of meaning is immense and it has the power to resonate with the reader long after it is read. The poet’s proud and somewhat arrogant appreciation of the beauty of her palace lies in its unique quality of concise construction, even though the houses standing on the rocks are structurally stronger than the poet’s shining palace.
  • “Second Fig” As a Representative of Confidence and Hope: The poet mentions about safety that is the hallmark of patriarchal structure and the first requisite of building a strong house. Through this line, she not only exhibits her grasp of patriarchy but also her recognition of its inclination towards constructing a mighty stronghold on stable foundations. Yet, she does not find beauty in those houses. Her argument is quite implicit that where there is strength, beauty is missing. The very next line shows her preference. She loves beauty and beauty has a transient nature. Therefore, she is satisfied with her “shining palace,” which is built on the sand. She is aware that the structure is constructed on the sand and understands that it is only temporary. Yet, she invites others to come and see the beauty of her palace.
  • Major Themes in “Second Fig”: Patriarchy, strong houses, and temporary beauty are three major themes of this poem. The poet did a good job summarizing femininity’s love for beauty and patriarchy’s love for strength, despite the limited verses. She knows that strong houses keep bonds strong and that they could only be built on rocks. She also knows that beauty lies in transitoriness and that it is only in the shining palaces that could be built on sands.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Second Fig

literary devices are specific tools the writers use in their writings. Edna St. Vincent Millay also inserted some literary devices in this poem to beautify this two-lined poem as follows.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /o/ in “Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand” and the sound of /ai/ and /a/ in “Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!”.
  2. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /s/ and /n/ “Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!” and the sound of /s/ and /l/ in “Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand”.
  3. Connotation: The poem shows the use of connotations through the rock, house, palace, and sand. They evince patriarchy and its preference for strength and femininity and its preference for beauty.
  4. Exclamation: The use of exclamation marks is clear from the second line, such as “Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!” Its affects on beauty are clear that the poet is very excited when saying this.
  5. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Edna St. Vincent Millay used imagery in this poem such as “Safe upon the solid rock”, “the ugly houses” and “shining palace built upon the sand.”
  6. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from literal meanings. Here, the poem has used the symbols of rock for strength and of sand for transience.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Second Fig

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

  1. Diction: The poem shows descriptive diction through the use of figurative language.
  2. Rhyme Scheme: The poem is a heroic couplet following the AA rhyme scheme.
  3. Heroic Couplet: As the poem comprises only two verses having the same end rhyme, it is a heroic couplet.
  4. End Rhyme: The poem shows the use of end rhyme, such as stand/sand.

Quotes to be Used

These lines from “Second Fig” are useful to use while talking about the beauty of houses.

Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!