by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Recuerdo Theme of Compassion and Forgiveness
There's something surprising and touching in unexpected generosity. That's precisely the sort of compassion we see in "Recuerdo": a chance gesture that turns out to have deep meaning for the person on its receiving end. It turns out that your actions have an impact on the people around you – even the strangers you pass on the street. Sure, it's not as world-changing as becoming a U.N. goodwill ambassador. But we can't all be Angelina Jolie. Sometimes handing out a piece of fruit can do just as much good on a small scale.
Questions About Compassion and Forgiveness
- Which do you think was the more generous gesture: buying the paper, giving the woman their fruit, or giving her their money? Why?
- Why do you think our speaker chooses to end the poem with these gestures of compassion and not their return journey? How does that frame our understanding of the night?
- Do you think that this is a depiction of impulsive generosity or a habitual practice? How can you tell?
Chew on This
This is a perfect example of compassion: a sudden, instant choice to help someone less fortunate than the speaker.
For all its beauty, this poem describes one of the problems with charity: the speaker impulsively gives everything to the first person she sees without stopping to consider more pragmatic solutions.