What shall we do for death? By Edna St. Vincent Millay—related by Janet C. Phelan


I shall die,

but that is all that

I shall do for Death.

I hear him leading his

horse out of the stall;

I hear the clatter on the barn floor.

He is in haste; he has business in Cuba,

business in the Balkans,

many calls to make this morning.

But I will not hold the bridle while he cinches the girth.

And he may mount by himself:

I will not give him a leg up.

Though he flick my shoulders with his whip,

I will not tell him which way the fox ran.

With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him

where the black boy hides in the swamp.

I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death;

I am not on his pay-roll.

I will not tell him the wherebout of my friends

nor of my enemies either.

Though he promise me much,

I will not map him the route to any man’s door.

Am I a spy in the land of the living, that I should

deliver men to Death?

Brother, the passwords and the plans of our city are

safe with me;

never through me

Shall you be overcome.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

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