Wednesday, May 4

This is me, telling again. I had a really long talk with David Novak about this story after I told it that night and some things about it changed for me. The story is about a crane who want to thank a man for his kindness and so she transforms herself into a girl and lives with him as his daughter, weaving for him when she can so that he and his wife have money in their old age. But the relationship is ened when the wife breaks her promise and peeks in on the crane while she is weaving and sees her true form.

It's about keeping a part of you to yourself... I haven't told it agian since that night, but I think that any time I do from now on, I will have to read this poem when I am done.


This door you might not open, and you did;
So enter now, and see for what slight thing
You are betrayed... Here is no treasure hid,
No cauldron, no clear crystal mirroring
The sought-for truth, no heads of women slain
For greed like yours, no writhings of distress,
But only what you see... Look yet again—
An empty room, cobwebbed and comfortless.
Yet this alone out of my life I kept
Unto myself, lest any know me quite;
And you did so profane me when you crept
Unto the threshold of this room to-night
That I must never more behold your face.
This now is yours. I seek another place.

Edna St. Vincent Millay


Jason said...

Wow. That's a powerful poem, thanks for posting it.

Chara said...

I don't know if you know the story- it ends very bluntly (as do most asian folktales) with the crane/girl leaving the family that she loves. I often wonder what will become of the old couple but lately I can also really identify with her desire to keep a part of herself a secret. The poem is called Bluebeard- the antagonist in that story is normally thought to be evil, but it's funny how closely related he is to the crane/girl in this other story.

Jason Ferguson said...


The speaker in the poem is God, the betrayer is Man.

Man seeks the ultimate knowledge of God, who is not-to-be-known (unknowable), therefore, man's quest to "know" God profanes His existence.


Chara said...

Milay wasn't terribly angry at the universe- I am not sure when she wrote the poem, however. I think that, like many of her poems, it is more a matter of introspection and commentary from personal experience.
I think I agree with her on a personal level. There is always a part of ourselves that we must keep private and isolated. Whether it is an empty room or an occupied one, it keeps us whole and concious of who we are to isolate parts of ourselves. Like the Crane/girl, it may be what makes it possible for us to accomplish great acts of love and gratitude. Then again, it might also be what makes us monsterous, like Bluebeard and his bloody key.

Either way, it is an isolation: Something that we can't let go of that separates us from even the people we should love the most and be the closest to.

Jason Ferguson said...

Yeah, I guess I was over-reaching :)

Initially it struck me on the personal level as well. As I prepare to get married this summer I realize that the metaphor of the secret room is essential...

Maybe what makes real love strong is when a person can look into your secret room, full of mystery, triumph, and shame, and love what they see.

Chara said...

The funny thing about this poem (to me) is that if you are truly intimate with someone, you're fooling yourself if you think that the room is covered by anything but a sliding glass door. When you live with someon their nature and their secrets become obvious with a little observation and attention. I guess that the way you approach the room is what makes you either benevolent and loving or barbaric and unlovable.
I hope you are doing well and are happy.

Millie said...

I love the poem with this story. It does just end and I never know quite what to do with the end either. I've thought about this story a lot and have only recently told it again (since early winter).