Study Guide

First Fig Change

By Edna St. Vincent Millay

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Almost immediately after we learn about how stunning and original and unique and generally awesome our speaker's double-ended candle is, we learn, of course, that it's not going to last forever. And that leads us right smack into a whole tradition of poetry that bemoans the impermanence of things. Life ends. Love ends. Even ice cream melts far too quickly. Unlike some of those gloom-and-doom poems you've read in the past, though, "First Fig" focuses on the bright side—literally. Her light may change into darkness very soon, but for now, it's radiant.

Questions About Change

  1. How does our knowledge that the light won't last change our impression of its value? How does it affect our impression of the speaker's ego? 
  2. Why do you think Millay sets a time limit for how long the candle will burn (less than the hours of night)? 
  3. How do you think the speaker feels about the candle not lasting very long? What in the poem gives you that impression? 
  4. Why do you think that Millay includes information about the candle's impending end so early in the poem?

Chew on This

The speaker of "First Fig" emphasizes that her light's brightness is more important than its duration. It's quality over quantity, folks.

The short duration of the speaker's metaphorical light in "First Fig" makes its importance tinged with sadness. Sniff.

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