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Analysis and comments on when serpents bargain for the right to squirm... (22) by e.e. cummings

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Comment 4 of 14, added on August 11th, 2005 at 12:21 AM.

The poem can also be read as an expanding set of allusions to William Blake
who writes (I can't recall exactly where in his poetic universe) that the
lion does not ask permission of the horse to catch its prey, and so on.
From this angle, the poem is also about so-called man's denial of
unpredictability, wilderness and the awe-inspiring power of natural being.
Cummings mocks the "ethic" or "law" that would want us to believe that we
are not radically and actively akin to the animals. That he manages to do
so in a highly satisfying crisp, fresh and lyrical manner sheds an
intriguing light both on lyricism and on being human.

etienne terblanche from South Africa
Comment 3 of 14, added on April 6th, 2005 at 3:03 PM.

Has anyone noticed the Shakespearean sonnet form of the poem--roughly three
quatrains and a couplet? I would think that his using this form that has
otherwise been used for meditating upon love and friendship, etc. says
something about his distrust for "unanimal mankind" and how nature--e.g.
animals-- is ironically more "unanimal" than humankind.

Aleksandr from United States
Comment 2 of 14, added on March 2nd, 2005 at 5:45 PM.

I have to disagree. Cummings is being literal when he says "unanimal
mankind." The poem does play on man and nature, but it distinctly points
out the absurdities of man. No oak begs permission, no rainbows are
insured, and no wave signs anything. Cummings is pointing out the
distinct "unnatural nature" of society. Although I don't think Cummings
would consider himself "unanimal", he didn't consider himself normal by any
means. He was just human.

Will G.
Comment 1 of 14, added on September 8th, 2004 at 8:11 PM.

After reading and examining this poem, I feel that it truly expresses the
close relationship between humans and other life forms. The juxtaposition
of nouns of nature, like the sun, roses, and rainbows, with human-like
action verbs, such as strike, bargain, and ensure show just how savage and
mean man is. This poem perfectly displays the unbreakable connection
between humans and the natural world which we humans attempt to rise above.

Caitlin Snyder

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Poet: e.e. cummings
Poem: when serpents bargain for the right to squirm... (22)
Added: Feb 20 2003
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