Edna St. Vincent Millay (February 22, 1892 – October 19, 1950) was an American lyrical poet and playwright. She received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923, the third woman to win the award for poetry, and was also known for her feminist activism. She used the pseudonym Nancy Boyd for her prose work. The poet Richard Wilbur asserted, “She wrote some of the best sonnets of the century.”
Millay wrote six verse dramas early in her career, including Two Slatterns and a King and The Lamp and the Bell, a poem written for Vassar College about love between women. She was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera House to write a libretto for an opera composed by Deems Taylor. The result, The King’s Henchman, drew on the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’s account of Eadgar, King of Wessex, and was described as the most effectively and artistically wrought American opera ever to reach the stage. Within three weeks, her publishers had run through four editions of the book.
Her pacifist verse drama Aria da Capo, a one-act play written for the Provincetown Players, is often anthologized. It aired live as an episode of Academy Theatre in 1949 on NBC.
“Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare” (1922) is an homage to the geometry of Euclid. “Renascence” and “The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver” are often considered her finest poems. On her death, The New York Times described her as “an idol of the younger generation during the glorious early days of Greenwich Village […] One of the greatest American poets of her time.” Thomas Hardy said that America had two great attractions: the skyscraper and the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay.