19 October (1921): Edna St. Vincent Millay to Arthur Davison Ficke

Arthur Davison Ficke reading to Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay and Arthur Davison Ficke maintained an epistolary “platonic love affair” over the course of the 1910s, the culmination of which—a single kiss—is referenced below. At the time of the following letter, however, they were already drifting apart; by 1923 they were “more distant friends, with only some bittersweet poems left to memorialize the affair. ”

October, 1921, Albania 

Arthur, my dearest,

I must write you, or you will think I did not get your letters. But when I start to write you all I can think of to say to you is—Why aren’t you here? Oh, why aren’t you here? —And I have written that to you before. —I have no news, you see.—Or rather, there is news enough, but when I try to write it, it all goes from my mind, & I have nothing to say but that I long to see you.—I take the photograph with me everywhere, the big one. I love it.—Arthur, I have no good photograph of myself, but if when you are in New York you should call to see my sister Kathleen, who is now Mrs. Howard Young, and lives at 184 West 4th Street, she would either give you or tell you where you could get one that is not so very bad. I will send you some snap-shots, too, as soon as I get them developed.

Dear, when I come back to the States, won’t you come east to see me?—I know you can’t come to Europe, but you could come to New York, because you often do, to see Hal, or somebody, & don’t you love me most as much as you love Hal?—I think we might have a few days together that would be entirely lovely. We are not children, or fools, we are mad. And we of all people should be able to do the mad thing well. If each of us is afraid to see the other, that is only one more sympathy we have. If each of us is anguished lest we lose one another through some folly, then we are more deeply bound than any folly can undo.


Doubtless all this reasoning resolves itself into one pitiful female cry,—what ever happens, I want to see you again!—But oh, my dear, I know what my heart wants of you,—it is not the things that other men can give.

Do you remember that poem in Second April which says, “Life is a quest & love a quarrel, Here is a place for me to lie!”?—That is what I want of you—out of the sight  & sound of other people, to lie close to you & let the world rush by. To watch with you suns rising & moons rising in that purple edge outside most people’s vision—to hear high music that only birds can hear—oh, my dearest, dearest, would it not be wonderful, just once to be together again for a little while?

(Just as I wrote those last words the muezzin began to cry his prayer from the little white minaret—he is still singing—)

One is so silly, isn’t one?—Listening to him it seemed that he was calling us to worship—heaven knows what—something that we both hold dear.


Arthur, I am glad that you love me. Your letters have hurt me & healed me. Such sweetness, to be loved like that. But to be loved like that by you,—how shaking & terrible besides.

That sonnet you asked me about—the one, “There is no shelter in you anywhere”—was written both about you & about myself—we were both like that—but are not any more. The “golden vessel of great song”, also was written to you. My time, in those awful days after you went away to France, was a mist of thinking about you & writing sonnets to you.—You were spending your time in the same way, I believe.—That day before you sailed,—I shall never forget it. You were the first man I ever kissed without first thinking that I should be sorry about it afterwards. There has been only one other, a boy I truly loved, in a simple way.


Arthur, it is wicked & useless,—all these months & months apart from you, all these years with only a glimpse of you in the face of everybody.—I tell you I must see you again.—