I Will Put Chaos Into Fourteen Lines | Study Guide

Edna St. Vincent Millay

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Course Hero. "I Will Put Chaos Into Fourteen Lines Study Guide." Course Hero. 10 Jan. 2020. Web. 22 Jan. 2022. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/I-Will-Put-Chaos-Into-Fourteen-Lines/>.

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Course Hero. (2020, January 10). I Will Put Chaos Into Fourteen Lines Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved January 22, 2022, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/I-Will-Put-Chaos-Into-Fourteen-Lines/

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Course Hero. "I Will Put Chaos Into Fourteen Lines Study Guide." January 10, 2020. Accessed January 22, 2022. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/I-Will-Put-Chaos-Into-Fourteen-Lines/.

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Course Hero, "I Will Put Chaos Into Fourteen Lines Study Guide," January 10, 2020, accessed January 22, 2022, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/I-Will-Put-Chaos-Into-Fourteen-Lines/.

I Will Put Chaos Into Fourteen Lines | Symbols

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Sonnet

The title and first line of the poem refer to the 14 lines of a sonnet, and the poem that follows is a sonnet. Edna St. Vincent Millay describes the sonnet as "the strict confines" of "sweet Order." Within these confines, she says, she will force Chaos to mingle and combine with Order—eventually making Chaos good. This transformative process is a metaphor for the work of creating poetry. Thus, this sonnet is a symbol of all sonnets and even poetry itself. It is a symbol of the inherent orderliness of poems and their power to make the chaotic and disorderly into something good or beautiful.

In the poem the sonnet's 14 lines are depicted as a metaphorical cage in which Chaos is trapped and brought to heel. In the sestet, or final 6 lines of the poem, the speaker's tone shows that her power over Chaos is personally satisfying. After years of servitude and duress, she says, she has now turned the tables on Chaos. The sonnet-cage in which he is trapped symbolizes the poem's power, but it also represents the speaker's own power, exerted through the writing of poetry, over Chaos.

Chaos

In modern use the word chaos often means confusion and disorder. By personifying Chaos, however, the speaker evokes a more mythological meaning. According to Greek mythology, Chaos was the emptiness that existed before the material world formed. This primordial view was developed by Roman poet Ovid (43 BCE–17 CE). In his Metamorphoses (c. 8 CE) Ovid described how Chaos was formed into the orderly universe. These mythological associations tie into Millay's poem's focus on the creative or transformative power of poetry. Following Ovid's model, Chaos is the primordial material but is of no use until it becomes subject to order.

In the poem's context, Chaos can be seen as symbolizing the basic material in which a poet's words originate. The creative impulse, the poet's experiences, their way of seeing the world—all are inside the poet. Yet they are in disorder. By expressing this basic material in poetic form, it becomes art. It becomes "good." Chaos is necessary to create poetry, but it is not poetry. Poetry is the poet's own Chaos forced into an orderly form.

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