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The Magazine That Taught Faulkner, Fitzgerald, And Millay How To Write
When many of our greatest authors were children, they were first published in the pages of St. Nicholas
December 1985 | Volume 37, Issue 1
As a poet, no St. Nicholas Leaguer was more prolific than Edna St. Vincent Millay. Between 1904 and 1910, the League published seven of her poems and listed her on the honor roll no fewer than a dozen times. The first poem that saw print in the St. Nicholas League was “Forest Trees,” published in the October 1906 issue. “The Land of Romance” not only won the gold badge in March 1907 but was reprinted in Current Literature, with the comment “The poem that follows seems to us phenomenal.… Its author (whether boy or girl, we do not know) is but fourteen years of age.” Miss Millay caused the editor’s doubt about her gender by signing the work “E. Vincent Millay.”
In the first two stanzas of the poem that so impressed the editors of St. Nicholas and Current Literature, the speaker asks two people she comes upon, “Show me the road to Romance!” The first person, a man, replies, “I trod it once with one whom I loved,—with one who is long since dead./ But now—I forget.” The second person, a woman hunched over a spinning wheel, tells the speaker, “Little care I for your fancies …get you to work instead.” It continues:
Two years later, E. Vincent Millay showed the St. Nicholas League another side to her talent with “Young Mother Hubbard,” a sassy parody of the nursery rhyme.
Miss Millay’s final poem for the League, “Friends,” appeared in 1910 and earned her the cash prize of five dollars. The editors called this work “a little gem in the smoothness and perfection of its rhythm, in its deft use of contrast, and in its naturalness of expression from first to last.”
A pair of poets who also caught the attention of the League were brothers named Benét. In 1901 William Rose Benét won a silver badge for his poem “The Harvest”; eleven years later his thirteen-year-old brother, S. V. Benét, won his silver badge for “A Song of the Woods.” In February 1914, having unfurled his first and middle initials, Stephen Vincent Benêt won the gold badge for “Mystery.” Like the League contributions of Edna St. Vincent Millay, Benét’s work would be accomplished for any age.