since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
– the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says

we are for each other; then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

Analysis, meaning and summary of e.e. cummings's poem since feeling is first… (VII)


  1. Mikaela says:

    this is the most confusing poem i have ever ever read. well i have to answer an assload of questions for my english class and i cant find any answers….. i hate poetry=(

  2. DaKing says:

    I have been reading and teaching this poem for over 35 years. It is simply one of cummings most eloquent. The simplicity of it is the key – I would suggest that the poem need not be textually analysed (for s/he) who pays attention to the syntax of things will never wholly kiss you. Simply: love wholly and purely; live for the moment of love; for tomorrow we die (death is no parenthesis). Do not intellectualize love – live love – he was such a romantic πŸ™‚

  3. N.H.B.B says:

    life’s not a paragraph: it’s not short and doesn’t have just one “phase” “feeling”…

    death i think so no parenthesis: death cannot be avoided/ignored…


  4. Cynthia says:

    This is one of the best poems ive ever read aside from ‘anyone lived in a pretty how town’ i love the work of e.e. cummings. my fav line is “kisses are a better fate than wisdom” i wish he were still around today to keep putting out amazing poems like this but e.e. cummings will forever live on in his work that he so gratefully left behind

  5. Cynthia says:

    This is one of the best poems ive ever read aside from ‘anyone lived in a pretty how town’ i love the work of e.e. cummings. my fav line is “kisses are a better fate than wisdom” i wish he were still around today to keep putting out amazing poems like this but e.e. cummings will forever live on in his work that he so gratefully left behind

  6. Hannah says:

    My friend, theresa from United States. It is not a sonnet. Just had to point that out. A sonnet has 14 lines, and several other qualities, but the 14 lines is the major one. This poem has 16.

  7. cindycat101 says:

    i believe that this is one of e.e. cummings greatest poems aside from “anyone lives in a pretty how town” the way he writes is so unlike any other poet, its just amazing. i dont care what anyone says. this poem is pretty great!

  8. mary suthers says:

    Iqbal Mohammed is disqusting to write such a thing about this poem. It’s an okay poem about a man’s splendid love for a woman, that’s all.

  9. a says:

    I hate to break it to you… however, Mr. Cummings.. ahem.. how do I put this?? well, Cummings died in 1962.

  10. alessia and erica says:

    Dear mr cummings,
    my friend and i had to research a poem of yours
    and we found it very intresting. i would just like to
    say that i enjoy writing and reading poems…n this one i really liked! o and my friend erica said that she really liked it too!

  11. Kelsey says:

    since feeling is first
    who pays any attention
    to the syntax of things
    will never wholly kiss you;

    this is th best stanza. basically it’s telling you to live in the moment and don’t think about what you’re doing too much. which is 100% what i need to do. this is definately my favorite e e cummings poem.

  12. poke 72 says:

    when i read this poem for the very first time i felt so happy i just well shed tears of joy (i put this comment in lower case letters because that is what e.e. cummings did)

  13. Megan says:

    i believe that the last two verses :
    “we are for each other: then
    laugh, leaning back in my arms
    for life’s not a paragraph

    And death i think is no parenthesis”
    i think he means that we shouldnt take life so by the book. we need to actually live to die. and in terms of love, i believe he means that death doesnt stop love, it can’t conquer it. it only delays it for some time. we should rejoice in the time we’re given to spend with each other, but not mourn the passing of those around us as lost. just delayed.

  14. Roxana says:

    When I read this poem I was really awasome about it, it is beautiful! and I really enjoyed it. I feel really connected with this poem.

  15. Amber says:

    So this poem is absolutely amazing. I’m not good at interpreting poems and the meaning of them or anything like that, but the first time i read this i was moved. He is def. on my list of fav poets now. I personally think ti can be read both ways though, not just from top – bottom or bottom – top. But that’s just me.

  16. Tasha Taylor says:

    this poem has a very meaningfull feeling flowing along with it and thats what i like about poems they have to have meaning and they have to make the writter get a picture in there head of what ever it is that they are reading

  17. lucia says:

    possibly my favorite e.e. cummings poem.

  18. Sarah says:

    It is interesting read bottom to top, especially the first few lines. I believe it can also be interpreted top to bottom though. I find it interesting that he appears to be calling his love “Spring” as in when love is in the air, his whole body approves (even if his mind does not making him a fool). Then, he swears by all flowers which could be interpreted as swearing by his love and all things that make up his love. I think he is saying that love is firstmost felt and by trying to define it with words, you never wholly grasp it. He is saying you should just let yourself be a fool and accept love as it is in its innocence. I love Cummings. You pick up on new things each time you read his poetry.

  19. Katie says:

    I think that the last line means that even when a writer dies he is not wholly dead because of his writing.

  20. Maria says:

    This poem shows how syntax is not tantamount to semantics.. perhaps cummings is gesturing towards why he breaks the rules of syntax in all his poems?

  21. Lacy says:

    Read it from the last line up, then it is a good poem. I think that it is meant to be read bottom to top. Correct me if I am wrong

  22. Parama says:

    when I read the poem for the very first time, I had goose bumps! I could feel my blood stirred… It’s a poem of love and maybe its also about taking love easily but to me there lies a subtle poignant beauty which is quite inexplicable. I could find the sad and painful part of love reading this poem and literally I cried… because I felt that lovers been described here in this poem can never really belong to one another entirely for cruel reality…

  23. Jose says:

    This poem is about love, and how it determines what we do in life. The poem expresses on how we should follow our heart and emotions, before our mind and thoughts. The poem shows the beauty of love, and how it shows in life, and that life has no limits. On the other hand, in the last line, Cummings mentions death, and how it’s no parenthesis in love, and that love continues forever.

  24. Bridey says:

    I think that this poem is about the state of ecstacy experienced when you’re falling in love or are in love. The way that little things are so unimportant when the feeling of a person is involved. When you love someone you would do anything for them no matter what the consequence and the act of poetry is a way of expressing feelings, thoughts or words that cannot be said any other way.

  25. Aakriti says:

    I feel this poem about a confusion which all people poetic at heart or in love face in day-to-day life.The constant fight of mind over heart.The poet expresess how falling in love and leaving practical life behind is foolish but his blood approves of it.for him the value of kissess is more than money and indeed it is true.Feelings definately come first and often cannot be expressede.A single moment of love,being with your loved one is more special than anything else in the world.If this is foolishness than I am a fool too.

  26. todd says:

    this poem is highlighting the fact that everyone needs love in their lives and until they have that, there isn’t all that much else in life. because life is represented as a formality and even though many of us consider death to be the end, ee cummings sees it as a beginning.

  27. Joe says:

    It seems that no one here knows what the last line of the poem means.

    one definition of Parenthesis is: An interruption of continuity; an interval. This is the definition that applies to the poem. The people who said that life has no syntax and no order were right, and now that i defined the word that seems to have given many people trouble, I think you can figure out what the last line means. Hopefully i helped.

  28. carolina says:

    this poem is one of, if not, my favorite poems. it’s just so true- feeling should always come first. yes, all you need is love. it’s weird how people in today’s world will tell you this all the time and yet focus always on the job side of things- on the money, on the deadlines- on the syntax of things. if it were up to me, I wouldn’t pay attention to the syntax of things, but don’t we all the time? the message is so beautiful. the poem says love is more important than anything, even wisdom. life is not a paragraph it says, for it isn’t. it has no structure, it’s full of unedited mistakes, it doesn’t get lost in details, it just is. and death is no parenthesis- death has no explanation. death is no explanation. death is not something you can put aside and still get life. I love this poem so much. I just wish more people in the world loved it- and lived by it.

  29. Ricky says:

    “Since feeling is first” is a reference to man’s emotional reasoning and that this bias often overshadows the logics that are unable to love nor make you feel truly warm and loved. The author goes on to depict that this flawed rationality has a tendency to make one foolish (“wholly to be a fool”) “while spring is in the world” or when one is in love. Regardless, the author’s passion approves of this behaviour (“my blood approves”)and he believes that it is better to have irrationally lived and loved than to rationally (wisdom) lived in the moment.

    Moreover, the author allows himself to be engulfed by this passionate moment of life. He declares an inability to express thoughts that are as grand as a smidgen of what her beauty says(“eyelid’s flutter which says”).

    Finally, life is not a paragraph refers to the authors definition of life. He does not believe that life has that much structure (control and will) nor stands alone but rather it is an occurrence meant to be enjoyed and is regardless. The death parenthesis is the author’s reference that death is not a beginning (open parenthesis)to an end (closed parenthesis) nor does it give meaning to the precendent life that it extinguishes. The author starts this stanza with “we are for each other: then laugh, leaning back in my arms for…”. This suggest that love above all is the main meaning of their life and for life to be enjoyed they must enjoy each other and the moment where their love occurs.

  30. Krista says:

    We analyzed this poem in high school and what I got from it was that he’s pretty much just saying “let’s just be in love” plain and simple. he doesn’t want to analyze it because it cannot be, and he wants to be completely engulfed in her. he doesn’t want to think about problems or issues/obstacles that they may have. there’s such a carefree tone in the “we are for each other..” stanza and with the “life is not a paragraph…and death i think is no paranthesis” i believe that he means that dying and living are the same thing because he has that theme in many of his other poems. life can’t be seen as a paragraph and death can’t be the grammar surrounding it’s beginning and end because it is all mushed together.

  31. jina says:

    i take this poem as someone who is in a relationship with another but there are some taboos. and she’s sad because though she wants to be with him, its not what’s “supposed” to happen. but he’s telling her not to worry about the syntax of things and he who does will never fully get who she is. also, her flutter he eyelids (because shes crying) is a way of him KNOWING they are for each other even though there are taboos saying no, her tears tell him she wants it too.

  32. Life in poetry says:

    this is my one favorite poem of all time i love his rebelius oproach to poetry with his strong and classic feelings about love amazing

  33. Sam says:

    One thing i really wonder about in Cummings poems is he talks about spring and death alot. What is the main theme behind spring and death in poems like “in just spring” and “Suppose life is an old man flowers on his head”. PLease reply me as soon as possible and if possible send a copy of reply to my email too. Thank YOu

  34. Patrick D says:

    if you try to analyze (i.e. understand the syntax of) this poem, you just don’t get it. this celebration of the transcending power of love is my all-time favorite poem.

  35. Lecretia says:

    It was exciting to learn of how many interpertations of this poem there was. I am writing a paper on this poem and that is helping me a lot. Thank you Elizabeth from the U.S. your words were a great help. if anyone else could help please feel free to email your words of wisdom to me.

  36. Brittney says:

    this poem is of my favorites… at first i didnt understand it, i chose to do it for an english project, and after i was done i really got what it was trying to say…its so.. perfect, every line has its own meaning for every person.. mine is “for life is not a paragraph” which is sooo true

  37. Michael LeClair says:

    Cummings poetry is a reflection of his personal life. He wrote to and about the people and events around him. Why she is crying seems quite obvious, given his comment immediately following his “don’t cry.” “The best” of Cummings brain, was his WORK, his poetry, which he was internationally famous for. He comforts her by explaining that his great poetic talent is nothing to him, compared to the effect her love has on him. So clearly, she is crying because she feels inadequate–she doesn’t feel worthy of such a “great man.” This happens to everyone who rides the arm of a celebrity; eventually they feel unworthy. In a typically ironic and perfect way, Cummings uses writing metaphors and terms throughout the piece, since they are what is being discussed.
    It is my favorite poem, and as others have stated, it is a modern carpe diem poem–“Join me in joyously living in the moment,” with Cummings oft-repeated admonition: “…and don’t worry about the rules.”

  38. Jacky says:

    in this poem he puts down death (over love) in 2 metaphors. This feeling is so intense and great that he does not want to think in the possibility of it being done with by death. notice something ” eyelind’s” (ur eyes r the window 2 ur soul).

  39. Denise says:

    My favorite line in this poem is ” life is not a paragraph”.; it’s so true. Life is not like something that we can write and then go back if we screw up, and rewrite. well said e!

  40. Dawn says:

    Take it however you want to. This poem embodies, for me, the thoughts that run through my head when I look at my lover. ee cummings…you speak volumes in broken lines.

  41. Elizabeth says:

    As many have before me, I will offer my reading of the poem, stanza by stanza.

    “since feeling is first
    who pays any attention
    to the syntax of things
    will never wholly kiss you;”

    I take this to mean that the flow of time is irrelevant; that when you first feel something, everything else occurs simultaneously. If you will ultimately develop a relationship with this person, that is evident from the first moment you meet. I take this to be cummings’ explanation of the age-old whispering of newfound lovers, “I feel like I’ve known you forever.”

    “wholly to be a fool
    while Spring is in the world”

    Spring is a common theme in cummings’ poetry. He introduces it fairly often as a symbol for new life; new worlds for exploration. Here, I see this to mean that the novelty of intense love can make one do things that one would otherwise not do, “while Spring is in the world” thus implying that the love is in its beginning stages, an implication strengthened by the previous stanza (a nearly Donne-like poem perhaps–“If we EVER will have sex, why not now? Syntax doesn’t matter.”).

    “my blood approves,
    and kisses are a better fate
    than wisdom
    lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
    – the best gesture of my brain is less than
    your eyelids’ flutter which says”

    Blood approving can have many readings. It perhaps suggests that down to the very marrow of his existance, he loves this lady. Or, maybe, it suggests the flush of a new love.

    Kisses being a better fate than wisdom is fairly self-explanatory. It’s a stark contrast to the poems of such literary greats as Shakespeare, who flatter their lovers by reaffirming their immortalization in their poetry.

    It’s a typical cummings thing to do, swearing by flowers. In his poetry, flowers are given a near-idolized position. In fact, poetry as a whole is often seen as “flowery.”

    At this point, I fall into a reiteration of other readings–I agree that “the best gesture of my brain is less than / your eyelids’ flutter” hints at an ineffability of love. All this poetry, perhaps he means, can be at once surpassed by a single flutter of your eyelids.

    “we are for each other; then
    laugh, leaning back in my arms
    for life’s not a paragraph”

    What love has not been characterized by a feeling of being “for each other”…has not been characterized by laughter and warm embraces?

    I take the last line of this stanza to mean that life is not a paragraph, with strict syntax and grammar and sentences and punctuation. Time, again, is both flowing and occurring simulatneously.

    “And death i think is no parenthesis”

    It’s interesting to see this sort of self-awareness in cummings’ poetry. He is the master of parentheses, throwing them in places where, to even the least critical grammatical eye, they don’t belong. With these parentheses, he makes brilliant commentary on the nature of life and love. Yet this poem is lacking in any parentheses. A parenthesis orders things; gives them a syntax and a structure, something that cummings evidentally was trying to avoid in this poem.

    And even death, he boldly claims, could not give a syntax to this exciting new love.

  42. jess says:

    when cummings says is comparing his brain to her eyelashes, he is proving that love can’t be analized. when people can forget about cause and effect and simply love love, then one has found true love. this is my favorite poem because it is the absence of all stress and worry. cummings is describing a human’s creation of Eden.

  43. Kelly says:

    since feeling is first is a poem about physical attraction, carpe diem, take the chance etc.

  44. Raquel says:

    At first, I didnt really understand this poem. But after reading everyone’s comments on it, I realize that it truly is a carpe diem type of poem. It just shows you how deep his love for this woman really is. He tells her that he would prefer a single kiss from her than infinite wisdom. I know hes dead, but great poem e!

  45. Tiffany P. says:

    This was the greatest poem ive ever read, this poem is
    very true.

  46. pilar cruz says:

    i see this poem as a modern carpe diem

  47. Jaye says:

    Just today we did an analysis of this poem in a poetry course i am taking in my school. It’s such a beautiful piece of work. It shows the importance of love above all things, and that it’s totally unpredictable and can’t be “syntaxed” or put into form. (atleast thats what i’ve managed to discover). But i like all ur analysis’s of it too. Just a lovely poem, and the ending brings it to such a mysterious yet somehow complete closure thats just so compelling. Well, yes, i’m done with this commentation now.

  48. Amanda says:

    Sorry, Krystia, but you are incorrect about the last few lines of the poem. What Cummings means by “life is not a paragraph” is that life is not structured. It has no complete sentences, no periods, often, no initial purpose. One cannot write out their life and then live it as though it were structured. Life has run-on sentences, errors, incorrect syntax and often no puncuation. Furthermore, when Cummings ends his poem, he is saying that death is no parenthesis. In most writing, a parenthesis is a side note, a mere though of the author in order to help the reader into further detail of explination. Cummings takes this ideal and says death is more than that, death, in itself, it an event and should not merely be a side note of life. That’s what the last two lines mean, unlike your orginial opinion of living life to the fullest. Nevertheless, this is one of my favorite poems, and Cummings does a remarkably beautiful job expressing the mere joy of love.

  49. Alana says:

    “the best gesture of my brain is less than
    your eyelids’ flutter” This is a lovely way of showing just how powerful his love for her truly is. The most brilliant, genius thought of his is no match simply for her “eyelids’ flutter”. There is no rational explanation for this, just like the “syntax” can never be understoood because love holds none.

  50. Jamie says:

    i tink one cannot truly understand the meaning of this poem unless one has expirenced love. Truly, love is illogical and has no reason to it. Love confuses one at first but one must except it for if you do it is the most wonderful expierence in the entire world.

  51. Heidi says:

    ” There are certain things in which ine is unable to believe for the simple reason that he never ceases to feel them. Things of this sort-things which are always inside of us and in fact are us and which consequently will never be pushed off or away where we can begin thinking about them-are no longer things; they, and the us which they are, equals A Verb; an IS.”
    – E.E Cummings
    follow it, believe it, apply it to this genius poem. simply emotion over reason…i wouldn’t be surprised if Cummings was even the relative reincarnation of Rosseau.

  52. Greg says:

    First off, I’m not surprised that you don’t understand. Cummings is not the easiest poet to follow. I’m not an expert by any means of Cummings, but it seems to me that he is of the tradition among poets who let you read your own meaning into the words he wrote. That being said, he is still a writer, still a poet, and his words are meant to put you in a certain frame of mind.

    Here’s my reading of it. The first stanza tells us that the root of love is the feeling and when you start to get involved in love, things may not make much sense to your brain. “There is no syntax” or order or sense to the way we feel. Furthermore, if you try to make sense of it, you miss out on it–“will never wholly kiss you.” Love also puts us in the frame of mind to not care about sensibility. Cummings mostly just elaborates on this sentiment throughout the poem, ending with the assurance that “life is not a paragraph, and death I think is no paranthesis.” In other words, it’s ok that love doesn’t make sense because life isn’t sensible and orderly, and neither is death. He uses the symbol of a paragraph, or written language, to which we are all familiar, with all its order and rules, and contrasts that with feelings and love and life and death.

    One item of note that is interesting. Right in the middle of the poem he reveals to us his motivation for writing these words. “Dear lady…don’t cry.” It seems that the woman he speaks to is upset (probably about how insensible love is). This poem is meant to alay her fears telling her that love, like life, is not set on rules and order and sensibility.

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