Millay, who was five-foot-one and a hundred pounds, was nevertheless a towering poet, one of the greatest sonneteers. She also pumped herself with an unfathomable amount of morphine and alcohol. In her “sober” period she lowered her daily liquor dosage to a liter and a half of wine. She died, at 58, after a night of working late and drinking hard, and reportedly pitched down a flight of stairs and broke her neck. Beside her head was a notebook that contained the draft of a poem, and she had circled the last three lines:
"I will control myself, or go inside.
I will not flaw perfection with my grief.
Handsome, this day: no matter who has died."
Here is her “Sonnet CXXXIX”:
"I must not die of pity; I must live;
Grow strong. not sicken; eat, digest my food,
That it may build me, and in doing good
To blood and bone, broaden the sensitive
Fastidious pale perception: we contrive
Lean comfort for the starving, who intrude
Upon them with our pots of pity; brewed
From stronger meat must be the broth we give.
Blue, bright September day, with here and there
On the green hills a maple turning red,
And white clouds racing in the windy air!—
If I would help the weak, I must be fed
In wit and purpose, pour away despair
And rinse the cup, eat happiness like bread."