Ebb By Edna St. Vincent Millay

image of Edna St Vincent Millay for the poem analysis of Ebb

The theme of sorrow and loss has been common in many of Edna Vincent Millay’s poems, and the poem Ebb is one of them. 

What’s so interesting and captivating is the poet’s power to deliver an impactful message with just a few lines. Condensing all the emotions in just seven lines is a difficult task, and yet she does it. 

Ebb is a poem about the loss of love from someone. It is the painful realization that the love that once was there is gone, and now whatever is left of it in you is also going away. 

While reading the poem might not show the intensity of pain expressed in the poem, reading this analysis will make you realize how powerful this small poem is. 

Let’s take a look at the poem and then at the analysis and essence of the poem to truly understand the magnificence of these seven lines and how relatable they can be for some people. 

Ebb by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I know what my heart is like 
      Since your love died: 
It is like a hollow ledge 
Holding a little pool 
      Left there by the tide, 
      A little tepid pool, 
Drying inward from the edge.

Meaning of the Poem

Let’s face it; when it comes to the actual poem and the way it has been written, there is nothing too complex about the writing here. But the message is heavy and deep. 

Millay’s ability to use just simple metaphors to explain complex emotions and feelings shines in these lines. In this poem, she is talking about how someone who used to love her does not love her anymore. 

But saying just that does not convey the pain that comes from it. The pain needs paragraphs to explain. Or a metaphor that can express it well. 

Edna says that she knows what her heart feels like ever since the love of her lover died. His heart has become a hollow ledge that was once submerged in the water of love. But now, the ocean has gone and dried. 

But not everything is gone all at once. While for the other person, the love was over, it was not so easy for the speaker. She says that in that hollow space, some part of the love remained. 

The hollowness of her heart held a little of the love that was once there. It is very little, but still there, reminding her about the love that was lost. What was once there in abundance? 

The last line of the poem conveys most of the feelings that one has when someone experiences something like this. The love does not go away at once, but it happens slowly, it takes time.

This slow process makes it even more painful and difficult for the person. The hollowness of the heart will be back soon, but not soon enough. The love is drying slowly inward from the edge. 

The Essence of the Poem

The essence of the poem is the slow and painful death of love for one person while the other person loses it quite painlessly. The great suffering comes from watching the hollowness reappear that was once lost in love. 

But the pain grows even more as the small amount of love that was left starts to dry out. The person watches the love fading away day by day. As the hollowness begins to increase, you start feeling the pain of lost love. 

This feeling is something no one wishes to feel as it can break even the strongest of people. It is like losing someone who is already there in front of you. It is realizing that happy memories are turning into painful ones.

Take a look at these poems that are related to the one you just read if you found it interesting