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Analysis and comments on the boys i mean are not refined by e.e. cummings

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Comment 21 of 101, added on July 17th, 2011 at 2:03 AM.

The final line is magnificent. It moves the poem from good to superlative.

Ortrud Radbod from Belgium
Comment 20 of 101, added on October 14th, 2009 at 1:07 PM.

"you should above all else be glad and young"

"the way to hump a cow is not..."
(topography is mine)
First time i read "the boys i mean..."
i immidiately tho of Hopi Katchinas"...when they dance".

T.D. Pawley 4th from United States
Comment 19 of 101, added on July 15th, 2009 at 10:02 AM.

it's not anyone lived in a pretty how town, now is it?
I agree with several posts, this poem stands out to me as one of several
that harken to his experiences in WWI. the harshness, the unrefined-ness of
his comrades, the extremes of behavior and the use of sex as a diversion
from the painful realities of war. we don't hear alot about sexual
compulsion before Viet Nam, but here it is,

Charles from United States
Comment 18 of 101, added on March 16th, 2009 at 8:18 PM.

this is the best poem i have ever read, it does have sexualy content but
some people dont get the point, the poem is saying that there are all these
different guys and all the want is sex. He is telling you to watch out and
not do things that you will regret later in your life!!!

Y@zzy from United States
Comment 17 of 101, added on December 14th, 2008 at 9:51 PM.

Thanks, Larry, I garee with what you have said. As a Vietnam veteran, this
poem's images resonate with me. I wonder though if cummings may have
intended to say something more than just a tribute. It is my experience
that combat strips the refinement away from most every participant, not
just poorly educated common soldiers. I suspect that cummings himself felt
that same process based on his experiences in war. For me, he was a poet
who spoke his mind and had little to do with bullshit "civilized" veneers.

The images also go a little deeper: firing a mortar has a movement similar
to masturbation and machine guns can shake themselves and sound like
laughter. I seem to recall a description of a fictional characters
"machinegun-like laugh".

In summary, I find this poem to be both tribute and caveat: send your boys
(and girls) to war, expect them to return more than a bit unrefined.

jack from United States
Comment 16 of 101, added on October 18th, 2008 at 1:58 AM.

Wow, I just found out that one of my favorite songs was based on this poem.
It's called "The Boys Are Too Refined," by The Hush Sound.

Anonymous from United States
Comment 15 of 101, added on March 18th, 2008 at 5:21 PM.

First off, I love e.e. cummings' poetry and have been looking for more.
This site has been the answer to that.
Anywho, I noticed that everyone here seems to have missed what jumped out
at me most: Especially compared to his other poems, the language e.e.
cummings uses here is itself unrefined. He is not a poet who tends to spew
colorful language like a sailor, as he seems to in this poem.
From what I can tell, he is intentionally being ironic here. I have to
look at this poem some more. e.e. cummings tends to be easy to glaze over,
and it's too easy to just ignore the meaning if you skim a poem.
You don't have to be an english scholar, but he certainly makes you think a

Ben from United States
Comment 14 of 101, added on December 11th, 2006 at 2:11 AM.

When I read this poem, it gives me a raging hard boner.

Leeroy Jenkins from United States
Comment 13 of 101, added on April 27th, 2006 at 5:32 PM.

I'm doing a report on this poem for a literature class which I really don't
care to write but...here's what I've recieved from the poem. I think it's
broader than JUST war. I think it expands in to the risks of what children
of his generation thought of as despicable. E.E. Cummings grew up a rich
child, played with other children who became famous and had parents who
were wealthy. He often met other kids who weren't as fortunate in the
backgrounds like him, the slum children. He grew up quite innocently
really, it was probably a culture shock when he met these types of children
and had spurts of arguments; and name calling with them. (Source: Dreams in
the Mirror, A Biography of E.E. Cummings Richard S. Kennedy)

Can someone tell me when this poem was written?

(not given) from United States
Comment 12 of 101, added on November 18th, 2005 at 5:22 AM.

I was a junior in high school when my English teacher pointed out something
that has stuck with me. She simply asked me how I knew what the author

Poetry is, inherently, abstract, far more so than prose. Think of a poem
you encountered years ago and then think of how it's meaning has changed
since you have changed. This is part of the beauty of poetry. Not only is
the meaning completely dependent on the reader but, also, at the state of
mind of the reader. Further more, the more we attempt to assign meaning to
it the more we colour or view.

And this poem... The possibilities for interpretations are, quite nearly,
endless. Is it an insult on men? Perhaps, but maybe only on those who've
failed to mature enough not to be boys. Either way the women (and is that
"women" or, simply, "girls?") seem equally disparaged.

As to war: I advise caution here. It's quite easy to compare sex and/or
relationships (platonic, sexual; same gender, opposite gender; heck,
parent/child, siblings, friends, lovers, etc...) to war. Even more so when
any vague phallic reference can be made to weapons. We don't even need to
get into women as the conquered. Of course these concepts can be read into
any one line of this poem but how can you know that was the author's

In "modern" terms (I use the quotes because Cummings' is modern poetry))
it's easy enough to take this poem at face value. So many "boys" seem to go
with "girls" who care nothing for art and wit, much the same as they, and
both spend their efforts on the superficial and blatantly sexual.

War, I think, is an interpretation of this poem that allows both genders to
not search inward and, instead, puts the onus on the big, bad society. Even
if it was, actually, intended as a commentary on war what does that say of
the obvious parallels to the relative relationships between boys and girls,
men and women, and the individuals (you and I) involved? The mere
possibility that such everyday relationships can be used as an anecdote for
war should give us all pause to consider those relationships and our roles
in them. Then, I'd think, commentary on war or not, the face value of the
words is every bit as relevant.

Julia from United States

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Information about the boys i mean are not refined

Poet: e.e. cummings
Poem: the boys i mean are not refined
Added: Jan 31 2004
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