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Comment 11 of 21, added on October 15th, 2013 at 11:56 PM.
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Comment 7 of 21, added on June 19th, 2013 at 12:01 PM.
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Comment 6 of 21, added on June 6th, 2013 at 5:21 PM.
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Comment 5 of 21, added on February 10th, 2012 at 3:35 PM.
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Comment 4 of 21, added on January 15th, 2007 at 12:53 AM.
The way that the poem is structured displays the subtleness in our life
journey, and how life just seems to tail off in the end. The first few
lines are packed with intense wording and are relatively long, but towards
the end of the poem, the lines become shorter and quieter. This is very
representative of the life cycle of many people. Many people recognize
that their lifespan is limited and therefore they should enjoy their youth,
so their early stages of life are packed with fun and excitement. Then, as
they grow older and have learned from their experiences, they develop a
more in depth relationship with themselves. Life starts to slow down,
maybe the phrase “less is more” starts to hold more meaning in their lives.
For example many elderly people might find enjoyment in the simpler things
in life rather than the wild or material. Cummings demonstrates all of
this with his use of line length; the lines near the end of the poem become
shorter to the point where the last line is only one word.
Cummings uses the last two lines to make a powerful statement. In the
eleventh line, the word “Hereupon” is capitalized. This is the only word
in the entire poem that is capitalized and this sentence is the only part
of the poem that is actually punctuated. He trying to point out that when
we finally find tranquility within ourselves, when we finally know exactly
who we are, this is when we are ready to die. To expand upon this would be
to also inquire if we will ever fully find tranquility until we are on our
death beds. Cummings makes this line different from the rest of the poem
with punctuation and capitalization because it ties the whole poem
together. Without the last line, the poem is not complete. This last
sentence displays the narrator’s realization about his or her life in its
entirety in a very calm and collected tone. Without the last line the poem
offers little insight and leaves the reader hanging.
Cummings also uses specific wording throughout the poem in a way that
progressively displays the stages of life. Words near the beginning of the
poem such as “hitting”, “chipping”, “fatal tools”, “chisels”, “squirms”,
and “strides” are all words of excitement and youth. They represent the
struggles, accomplishments, and life experiences we go through. While
words towards the end of the poem such as “cleverly”, “slightly”,
“helpless”, “utter”, and “bellowings” are calmer and of a casual tone as
they present a momentous realization within the narrator. These words seem
to convey the subtle message that we all age and eventually depart from
life, so there is little sense in allowing our age to affect our emotional
state in a negative way. Our life experiences are what shape us and this
process is continuous throughout life, so therefore we will never fully be
able to visualize the final product of who we are until our final moment of
life when life experiences are no longer available. Cummings’ poem
displays this idea through the way the narrator feels he/she is becoming
Ryan from United States
Comment 3 of 21, added on April 12th, 2006 at 4:02 PM.
cummings is confronting the tabula rasa theory of human nature -- that we
are nothing but what sensory experience shapes us to be ...
so (he tell us) the mind is nothing but a "big hunk of irrevocable nothing"
that the five senses carve away at like "sensual chisels."
Despite the influence of environment, though, the poet is somehow able to
some influence on the process: "i slightly am something different, in
While perhaps helpless before the environmental forces that shape us, we
still perhaps have the freedom of art -- especially of strange and curious
beauty like cummings' poetry. Despite being "helpless," he utters "lilac
shrieks" and "scarlet bellowings."
Quite possibly when cummings was writing, it was difficult to challenge the
Standard Social Science model -- that humans are infinitely malleable,
shaped by their social and physical environment. This poem is suggesting
that while that may be true, there is realm of imagination -- of song --
that is perhaps free.
from United States
Comment 2 of 21, added on August 12th, 2005 at 8:31 PM.
could someone tell me a little bit more about what exactly this poem is
meant to mean?
Rose from Australia
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