This Beast That Rends Me

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George Dillon (1906 – 1968)

Address To The Doomed

by George Dillon

Say it is life that matters. Say the bone
And flesh that blazoned it are but a book
Mislaid, forgotten, and the meaning known.
I will believe, but I have lived to look
On the cold body of the beautiful dead,
White and immobile as the moon in air –
The imperious heart being strangely quieted,
And the proud spirit flown I know not where.
Say it is earth again.  Let it be hid
In ruined leaves.  Account it as the dust
That quarrels not with doom and never did,
And reckon me among the quick who must.
Yet would I sleep tonight at the rose’s root,
Seeing what TIme has trampled underfoot.

October 1930


George Dillon and Edna St. Vincent Millay shared several things, both won the Pulitzer Prize, Millay for The Ballad of the Harp Weaver and Other Poems in 1923 and Dillon for The Flowering Stone in 1932.  They also shared a bed. The two would cross paths in Chicago in 1928, while Vincent was on a reading tour and despite a 14 year age gap, the two were smitten on first sight. Millay was the pursuer and wrote volumes of letters and poems to Dillon in those first torrid months. Millay was married and confided instantly to her husband about her new found boy-toy.  He was wise enough to know that this too would pass, and on the face of it accepted Millay’s love affair with Dillon, which both chronicled in sonnets and poetry; Millay in Fatal Interview and Dillon in The Flowering Stone.   This unconventional mutual confessions of unfaithfulness was a big nothing burger in their own personal lives, but was just the kind of juicy romance that the reading public was hungry for at the time.  To have a strong, beautiful woman, in charge of her own sexuality was an awakening force in evolving norms towards women’s independence and sexual liberation.

Millay simultaneously wrote sonnets to both her husband and Dillon during the years 1928 to 1930 and it is a bit confusing reading Fatal Interview which was written to whom. The sonnet below Millay wrote in pencil on her first lunch with Dillon in 1928 in Chicago, so completely was she infatuated, she gave it to him immediately.  Her opening salvo completely prophetic, so much was she confident in her love language and natural tendencies.

This beast that rends me in the sight of all,
This love, this longing, this oblivious thing,
That has me under as the last leaves fall,
Will glut, will sicken, will be gone by spring.
The wound will heal, the fever will abate,
The knotted hurt will slacken in the breast;
I shall forget before the flickers mate
Your look that is today my east and west.
Unscathed, however, from a claw so deep
Though I should love again I shall not go:
Along my body, waking while I sleep,
Sharp to the kiss, cold to the hand as snow,
The scar of this encounter like a sword
Will lie between me and my troubled lord.

Edna St. Vincent Millay 1928

Dillon went on to become an editor for Poetry magazine from 1937 to 1949.  Today, Dillon is largely forgotten as a poet. His literary legacy did not survive his generation.  He stopped writing poetry by age 41 and eventually faded off the literary landscape. His only present day notoriety is as one of many of Vincent’s lovers. And in that regard, he is in very good company.


To Losers

by George Dillon

Let loneliness be mute. Accuse
Only the wind for what you lose,
Only the wind has ever known
Where anything you lost has gone.
It is the wind whose breath shall come
To quench tall-flaming trees and numb
The narrow bones of birds. It is
The wind whose dissipating kiss
Disbands the soft-assembled rose.
It is the wordless wind that knows
Where every kind of beauty goes.

And if you lose love in the end
Say it was taken by the wind.

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A Sonnet Obsession

I am a life-long Minnesotan who resides in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy my curated selection of sonnets, short poems and nerdy ruminations.

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