May 01, 2018 Perspective

Perspective—Burning the Candle at Both Ends

By Scott F. Partridge

©2018. Published in Landslide, Vol. 10, No. 5, May/June 2018, by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.

My candle burns at both ends; it will not last the night; but ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—it gives a lovely light!

—Edna St. Vincent Millay

My family lived in the northern Appalachian hills of Pennsylvania, which were once the lands of the mighty Iroquois nation. As a teen I would often go to a red brick, two-story library in my small hometown to read famous poets and do my best at writing a few lines of my own (14-line sonnets being my self-observed forte). I was inspired by the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, who wrote “Renascence” in her late teens and received a Pulitzer Prize for poetry shortly after turning 30 years old. I’m still intrigued by this poem and often recommend it to others for the deep meaning and rhythm it offers. In those days, though, I thought that a point of significance beyond the words of the poem was how much one could accomplish within a short period in one’s life. It was only later that I discovered that Millay had also written about burning candles at both ends, which led me to search all the library shelves for every single book of her poetry and a few others of that era. What has stuck with me to this day is the consistency between the words themselves and what Millay accomplished in a few short years even as a teenager.

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