What should love be?
Insta-Lust? No, love is lasting.
Weak when faced with problems? No, love is strong.
Selfish and self-focused? Love is mutually focused.
True love is integral to the soul. It colors and brightens our world and gives us guidance in the other spheres of life, helping us survive the professional slog and the communal drivel. It gives potential to the elements necessary for growth and abundance.
This poem expresses all of that.
Personally, e.e.cummings is one of the few poets who still intrigues me. This poem is proof that he is more than the gimmick of unusual punctuation and capitalization.
What does the poem say?
Speech and thought go hand in hand, side by side, just as a couple should. “Whatever is done by me” is not me alone. The other half of the whole contributes just as much, just not in the same way. Each powers the other, even when each is alone in the brutal world.
They are destined, fated, to be together. The moon of romance and the sun of living are intrinsically within each other for each other.
The power of the third stanza is the meaning carried beyond the words. The nourishing and spreading root, the blossoming and nectar-filled bud, the over-arching and all-covering sky—these represent love and still do not say it all.
Love is wondrous and inexplicable. cummings’ word choice calls upon us to figure out the riddling miracle that can never quite be untangled from its mystery.
Line structure plays its own part in that riddling mystery.
Why is “i fear” on a line alone and thrown to the right side? Is it intended to join the two equal stanzas? That is what love does: it joins two equal and independent selves and sets them on a journey forward, together.
Alone in the world, a person does fear. Linked with another, we “fear no fate”. Yet why is that line thrown to the right? To be rightly joined—is that the answer? To be not “unequally yoked” but rightly joined. That’s logical.
Punctuation gives more meaning.
cummings pares his punctuation down to parentheses (6 uses), two semicolons, four commas, and two apostrophes. Is he “speaking to us” with these marks?
Commas link. Okay, that’s easy to connect to the meaning.
Semicolons link equal and independent statements. That echoes the linkage of the first two stanzas, rightly and equally joined.
Parentheses are for additional information not considered necessary but deemed by the writer as needing to be added. Wow. Just—wow.
Apostrophes—both contractive, not possessive. Oh, my. Love brings two people together, yet neither “owns” the other. They remain equally independent, together by choice. Not necessary to each other but needed by each other.
That’s—that’s—well, I did not see it truly until I examined it.
Yes, the Greatest Love Poem
cummings certainly has more going on than a gimmick—and his explanation of a heart-filled relationship is the definition of love.
The Greeks have four separate words for love, each expressing a different type. We’ll examine these on the 21st. Join us.
This series of blogs is for poetry lovers, hosted by Emily R. Dunn of Writers Ink Books. Visit our page on every multiple of 7 (7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th) to see which poem has inspired a lesson in thinking and writing.