pity this busy monster,manunkind… (XIV)

pity this busy monster,manunkind,

not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victum(death and life safely beyond)

plays with the bigness of his littleness
-electrons deify one razorblade
into a mountainrange;lenses extend

unwish through curving wherewhen until unwish
returns on its unself.
A world of made
is not a world of born-pity poor flesh

and trees,poor stars and stones,but never this
fine specimen of hypermagical

ultraomnipotence. We doctors know

a hopeless case if-listen:there’s a hell
of a good universe next door;let’s go

– e. e. cummings

Analysis, meaning and summary of the poem by

14 Comments

  1. Wahaj C. says:

    The poem begins by first stating the main subject that is being analyzed, which is all of humanity. The first line states, “Pity this busy monster, manunkind.” In this sentence, the “busy monster” is actually all of humanity. The term itself would be humankind; however, the poet has created a new word to describe what man is and what are its intentions. Manunkind is a fabricated word, however it is written in such context that it becomes a word which describes how man is unkind. It is describing a humanity has come to be so fully exhausted and hectic, that it has turned into a collection of pathetic monstrosities. By this line alone I am able to understand the poets meaning of what human kind has turned into. It is evident that the poet has a negative outlook toward what humanity has come to be. He is inferring that over a period of time man is progressed so far in every aspect of life, including technology, medicine, and thought that it has turned into a monster without stop. At the end of the first line he talks of pitying humanity for what it has become, however he ends this statement in the next line where he says,” Not.” Here he is taking back what he said of pitying mankind and he is beginning to change his tone on what he thinks of humanity. This poem is an important look at humanity because of its central theme; man sets himself above all others, no matter the cost. When man does this, he is opening the path of indifference to ignoring the “little people” who then become disposable, thus a monster is born.

    In the next line he states, “Progress is a comfortable disease…” In this line he is stating how humanity has only one will on this planet and it is survival and progression. Cummings puts these words into such context that it makes humanity seem as if the only thing that it is concerned with is it s own advancement on this planet, such as an obsessed beast. Here he is stating the reason why mankind should not be pities for it is bringing these circumstances upon itself, therefore it does not deserve any sympathy. When Cummings states progression to be a comfortable disease, he is implying that humanity is trapped in an endless cycle of rapid development, which has turned into a fixation with disease-like qualities. The word progress is symbolic, because it symbolizes all of what humanity has achieved in its short term on this planet. Progress represents the countless technologies that man has created and the countless other inventions which have made life so easy. Technology is defined as something which makes life easier. This progress has caused humanity to lose sight of what living life is actually like. This progression, in words, has softened humanity causing it to rest in a comfort, yet spellbound in its own succession. This is because when they rely on the development then they have lost a sense to survive without it like a machine has reduced inherited human skill and labor.
    In the next line Cummings states, “… your victim (death and life safely beyond)” This line is meant to be described as a barrier which man has faced countless times which both helps and yet restrains it from progression. This line implies that death is the one enemy which mankind has not completely ended. It is what causes us from progressing at an even faster rate. However without death there would be no life, so its is symbolic that something which slows down progression, at the same time it is the fuel behind it occurring at all. Cummings also implies through these lines that death and life, including everything which keeps humanity intact, might be coming dangerously close to being ended by progress. Death and life are kept at a certain balance, for they are the beginning and end of everything living. Progression might cause the line between the two to completely vanish, turning humanity into a truly horrific creature with no stop to what its single purpose on the Earth is.
    In the next line Cummings states, “…plays with the bigness of his littleness.” Here Cummings is implying that humanity sees itself to be far more than it really is. This line describes how humanity has come to see itself as all powerful and superior in the entire universe. It sees itself to be the only means of existence for the entire universe. However, it is ignorant to the fact that it is only a tiny speck in the middle of endlessness. Humanity sees itself as a cut above, however it does not fully grasp the concept of there being “more.” Humanity does more than it is capable of, thus creating a dangerous situation where humanity is oblivious to what its true place is in the universe. Humanity celebrates its unsurpassed existence on this planet and it has drugged itself to the point of unending nonexistent euphoria. When Cummings states, “electrons deify one razorblade into a mountainrange…,” he is stating how humanity defies anything that may means the end of its existence. It is defying what is natural and physically possible to extend so far, that its little meaning such as an electron, has caused itself to unnaturally be as significant as a mountainrange. This line is a metaphor of humanities struggle to surpass everything.
    When Cummings states, “lenses extend unwish through curving where when till unwish returns on its unself.” Here Cummings uses the lenses of telescopes or cameras where the lenses create a distorted view of what is actually being seen. Cummings is using lenses in metaphorical terms to describe humanity as a single giant organism which has distorted itself, such as what lenses do, causing it to look at itself in a vague way, unaware of its actual appearance. The lenses has disillusioned mankind into perceiving who they are and where they live to be something that does not exist. This statement makes the existence of humanity seem nonexistent, through the sue of the prefix “un” Cummings is creating a sense of everything that humanity desires or strives to gain or achieve was and is not actually there. Humanity perceives through a lenses thus creating a disillusioned means of existence.
    When Cummings states, “ A world of made is not a world of born-pity poor flesh and trees, poor stars and stones…” Here the poet is implying that the things which man has created are unnatural. Through the means of the natural resources of the planet, man has molded these natural resources into poor and pitiful inventions and technologies. At this point the tone of the poem begins to change, into a depressed and slightly angered voice. Cummings is implying that everything man has made is unnatural and therefore it is not “good.” He is stating how that ever since humanity has inhabited the planet, every thing has become poorer and has declined in its condition. Humanity is a poison which is distorting and destroying everything that is natural and therefore good. Thus implying that humanity is evil and it is what should be blamed and everything that has fallen under its “reign” should not be held responsible but pitied for its condition.
    I am only in high school so im not sure you should really take most of this stuff for real.

  2. Conor says:

    i think that when he talks about “unwish returns on its unself” he is saying that after you try and change what has happened, or what people wanted, when you do that, there is nothing to take back. its “un” existent.
    just the ramblings of a high school student

  3. Danielle says:

    My first response to the line the “unwish curving…” was questioning when the theories about the curving, infinite universe first became popular. The curves and turns and holes that make infinity vs. the very finite existence of mankind.

    “– electrons deify one razorblade”
    hints creationism. The earth sits on a razorblade… the temperature, the air supply, etc. being just so perfect for life. The argument goes that this supposed “perfection” happening without a creator — happening by accident — nearly impossible. Cummings next line refutes that argument. A mountainrange is a prime example of evolution.

    I could be absolutely wrong. I don’t know.

    It seems to fit perfectly with the remainder of the poem.

  4. Andy says:

    Just a few clues. Plays with the bigness of his littleness is a clear reference to masterbation and is used to mock the ultraomnipotent feeling mankind. Curving wherewhen seems a reference to Einstein’s curving space-time. The razor blade could be a reference to an old shick (?) commercial using the electron microscope to magnify the edge of their blade and brand x after ten shaves. Brand x appeared as a mountainrange indeed, shick as foothills at a distance. Can’t believe people are puzzled by the references to nature–a world of born is not a world of made–pity poor stars and trees. . .etc. Nature is better at creation than we are and we are victimizing nature and destroying it in our quest for advancement. Great Site by the way. I may require my students to start using it.

  5. james says:

    I don`t get the whole poem

  6. me says:

    i dont get the part about the electrons…

  7. KT says:

    I don’t get the part where he talks about trees,stars and stones.

  8. nikki says:

    i was told that this poem relates to science and i am trying to figure out how if you know of anyway this poem connects to science i would like to noe

  9. am says:

    The poem talks about the relationship between human and technology in the modern world. Human is cruel creature who takes everything for granted. He is trapped by the rapid development of technology and by its benefits regardless its negative effects. Moreover, through the progress he thinks he has superiority over the world but he actually is not that significant, just a tiny element of the universe. Human beings have perceived themselves as the supreme creature that is better that the others. The disillusion of the modern world has thrived along with artificial invention which replaced nature. The crooked perception of human is in crisis. What human wants to do is to explore another good place.
    We should concentrate on the writer’s attitude toward the society which is in many ways greatly affecting the theme of the poetry. Cummings is against the industrialization, materialism, capitalism in the contemporary world. He sees them as man-made artificial circumstances which have gradually eroded human spirit and natural things. He is fully aware of the destructive power contributed by the human development in materialistic side so he conveys the idea to the reader.
    The nasty aspect they exploit the progress is that human beings celebrate themselves to be the most unsurpassed in the world. They are proud on their capability in the invention of facilities regardless focus both on its bad and good sides. For instance, the country’s military defense could instruct the sense of power which makes the nation at ease with affairs of state or becomes a superpower but could be a disease because it has inhuman impacts on the human race as we can see in the wars which were the important merciless events in history. Consequently, the race is being consuming by its own creation more and more sometimes without any awareness. Eventually, man may be damaged by his hand.
    In addition, human beings have to lost many natural qualities to exchange with the improvement. Nowadays, they become addicted to the rapid growth of the progress and here come problems. This is because when they rely on the development then they have lost a sense to survive without it like a machine has reduced inherited human skill and labor. The general example found everywhere is the widespread use of the Internet, a kind of easy-to-use devices smartly invented by human. This system of connected computers allows users around the world to exchange information about almost everything. However, as everything this convenient access brings about harm as well such as the obsession on computers or sources of destruction of misfortune as online gambling or naked websites which eventually cause the crime.
    Man could right now realize everything they have been doing before it is too late. But what does such a creature who has such twisted insights can deal with? The best method might have to be given by all the races. Probably, most awful, there is no any definite solution to the problem since the case is hopeless.

  10. Joshua says:

    I think Life and death lying safely beyond, is how progress can not effect life or death, because we will still die, and for death to occur we need life.
    The line about magnifying humanity to actually seem more important then we are…a sharp razor blade, that when examined closer is just a bunch of jagged edges.

    Cummings was an absolute genius.

    And the last line revealing it from the viewpoint of a higher being..

    “We doctors…”

    Who give up on humanities self destructive path of progress, is almost deism…

    Excellent poet.

    Very underappreciated.

  11. ConqueringId says:

    “your victim (death and life safely beyond)” perhaps this means that humanity may do whatever it wants as there is a “promise” of life beyond death, perhaps this is a mockery of Christianity’s promise and man’s “throwing away” life on earth as it were, to sin heedlessly, as long as they say the right prayers and reach Heaven in the end. Like Bob Marley would say “”your victim (death and life safely beyond)” But if you know what life is worth, You will look for yours on earth”

  12. ap english says:

    i was wondering if anyone could help me out with the line that goes: “your victim (death and life safely beyond)”
    im writing a paper on Cummings’ misanthropic moods and this poem works well with my thesis….. but that line just flies over my head.

  13. disarm says:

    i love this poem. there is a wonderful challenge in this poem of human desperation to claim what they can not understand. nature. and the hurried unappreciative pace of human demand. not only that but the ‘hypermagical’ and ‘ultraomnipotence’ that is man. nice bit of mockery that is oh so very true.

  14. God says:

    You know, the best part is that all it takes to leap to the next universe is as flip of the page.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem better? If they are accepted, they will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.