Millay’s I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed
This feministic poem expresses the way how woman let men treat them. The main theme in this poem is having sex only from compulsion. The woman is probably a mistress because they are not together all the time: ‘‘I find this frenzy insufficient reason/ [...] when we meet again’’ (13, 14).
Right from the beginning she confesses that she has certain ‘‘needs and notions’’ (2), in another words that she needs sex and believes in love. On the other hand, it is difficult for her to love that man, because she needs to ‘‘find your [his] person fair, and feel a certain zest’’ (3) to be able to make love with him. It might be difficult for her because she thinks that the man is with her only because of sex, but she knows that she cannot refuse him, since he would leave her as is said in: ‘‘So subtly is the fume of life designed,/To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind’’(6,7). So at the end it is easier for her to submit to him, because the act of making love changes her thinking. The fume of life stands for a substance in life (the act of love) and as negative as it is (making love without feelings) it cleans the blood. What is more, to be able to do something like this it is important to cloud the mind not to think about unimportant details (no love included).
The woman is then left ‘‘undone, possessed’’ (8), which means that even though she did not want to make love at the end she is again possessed by making it again. That is her ‘‘poor treason’’ (13), because she knows that she does something against her body, honours and believes, but she cannot fight against it, because her blood is stronger that her brain: ‘‘my stout blood against my staggering brain’’ (10).
At the end she confesses that she ‘‘shall remember you (him) with love, or season/My (her) scorn with pity’’ (11, 13), which points out that she is having sex with him only because she feels sorry for him, because he cannot feel anything – he is ‘‘only’’ a man, an animal commanded by his passions.