The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver

I’m a fan of both the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and Johnny Cash. For those not that familiar with her, Millay was a well-known poet during the roaring 20s. She was known for both her poetry and her racy-for-the-time sexual voraciousness. Her best know poem is First Fig.

My candle burns at both ends;
    It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
    It gives a lovely light!

Edna St. Vincent Millay - 1920

Neil Young’s My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue) expresses a similar thought, doesn’t it?

I was delighted to learn recently that Cash “covered” A Millay poem, The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver. I thought it was odd that Cash would want to put her poem on his album. Until I read the poem and a bit about Millay’s life. Then it became very clear.

Millay and Cash had a shared history. Both were born into a destitute family situation, frequently not having enough to eat. One of Cash’s early homes had no windows, they used burlap bags to cover them. Millay basically raised herself and her younger sisters in the absence of her parents.

The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver reminds me – and I’m sure it did to Cash as well – of Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Color and Hard Candy Christmas.

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