But, ah, my foes, and oh my friends;.
The poem reflects the intensity of the Roaring Twenties, and the degree that it could not and did not last. Nobody knew at the time but 1929 loomed; not as a bright light but as a year that would extinguish any heat that the decade still contained. In the second stanza of the poem, 'but ah my foes' refers to the conservationists in the bible belt of America who wanted to protect the conservative social and religious morals that had controlled life to that point. Vincent Millay's comment 'Oh my friends it gives a lovely light.' relates to the young generation of the decade. This brief poem of four lines captures a social paradox that observes the heights of decadence and in contrast, knowing that the light would eventually go out. And it did, on 24th October 1929. .
No decade in American history burnt as 'brightly' as that of 1920's. This era was magical in that it transformed a society that was basically conservative, locked into its (white) traditions, and an apartheid culture. .
As 1920 came around, America was still grieving their 115, 000 men who died in the First World War. Their closest memories were grim: young courageous men were dying at a rate of 2000 men per day fighting the war that was meant to "end all wars". .
Americans, especially the young, were now ready to forget the 'dark days'. The candle was beginning to 'burn at both ends'. The desire for excitement, for joy and laughter was contagious. Every sector of the white society became addicted to Jazz, (Prohibition) alcohol, the automobile, entertainment, and the idea of freedom. It was an era of technological as well as social discoveries. .
Politicians "promised" there would be a return to the historical normal lifestyle, however that was now lost forever in the new stream of American cultism. Cultism had become mainstream society. The blacks were still no part of this society other than to create the 'rhythm'.