dying is fine)but Death

?o
baby
i

wouldn’t like

Death if Death
were
good:for

when(instead of stopping to think)you

begin to feel of it,dying
‘s miraculous
why?be

cause dying is

perfectly natural;perfectly
putting
it mildly lively(but

Death

is strictly
scientific
& artificial &

evil & legal)

we thank thee
god
almighty for dying
(forgive us,o life!the sin of Death

27 Comments

  1. William says:

    What a perfect metaphor for this poem to chop it off at the knees to protect a copy(so-called)right. Want to know what cummngs meant by death? Here it is, served up on a platter by the copyright holder, artificial and evil and LEGAL.
    They know not what they do, LOL.

  2. Claudine Collier-Fanaselle says:

    I believe that what we are supposed to learn from this poem is that dying is the beautiful, natural ending of life. The wondrous moment when the spirit leaves the body, while Death is all about hospitals and flatlines, lawyers and wills, morticians and embalming fluid, all the ways in which we take nature out of dying.

  3. David says:

    I read this completely differently – didn’t Cummings often (if not usually) use the “petit mort” sense of death in his poetry? I don’t think I’m reading too much into this – between “?o/baby” and dying “perfectly/putting/it mildly lively” versus Death “artificial &/evil & legal”, and “the sin of Death” – I took it as Cummings’ irreverent but heartfelt commentary on the role of sex in society. I don’t mean to be vulgar at all, I just thought that was a characteristic of Cummings’ poetry and automatically read it that way. The more literal interpretation makes sense too, though, so now I’m not so sure. Does anyone have a link to Cummings’ own reading of the poem?

  4. William Brennan says:

    As cummings uses them here, neither dying or death refer to the death of the body. ‘Death’ here, is actually a fate worse than death, as we know it. It is the death or awareness, of feeling and consciousness. It’s the attachment to the world of form and identification with the ego and its objectification of ‘things’ (maya).
    ‘Dying’ is the awakening into the moment; “when you begin to feel of it”. It’s the death of fear, the death of ego, being fully present beyond the mind “(instead of stopping to think)”.
    Thus the gratitude for dying and the regret of death.

  5. justina says:

    jessie’s got it…when he says “dying,” he’s referring to the physical cessation of a heartbeat and brain activity. but when he says “Death,” it definitely symbolizes a spiritual death, a loss of one’s vivacity and fervor, a loss of one’s beliefs or morals, a loss of one’s essential self (something that, more often than not, occurs while one is still breathing and physically functioning).the last little part:
    we thank thee
    god
    almighty for dying
    (forgive us,o life!the sin of Death

    makes this rather apparent…dying is natural and good, but Death is abominable.

  6. Lawrence Besserman says:

    For what it’s worth, I regularly misremember the refrain of this poem as ‘Death isn’t so bad, but dying, o baby’–the reverse of Cummings’ evaluation of the participle versus the noun. The thinking behind my misremembering is that the actual experience of ‘dying’ is terrible, whereas the abstraction of the noun ‘death’ is bearable–i think the irony of Cummings’ beginning with the difficult-to-swallow statement ‘diung is fine’ should not be lost. . .

  7. Jill says:

    Jessie’s got it right. dying is physical. death is spiritual. dying just means your body is dead, you stopped breathing…but your spirit and your memory lives on. Death means your spirit no longer exists, you’re lifeless. ironically, some people can be Death while they’re alive.

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