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E.E Cummings: The Divorce of Love and Reason


Published on December 14th, 2019 at 01:26 am

By Annelisa Eckert

Love is the most important human emotion; it triumphs reason and logic and is more important to life than rational thought. This is a central theme throughout E.E Cumming’s poem Since feeling is first. This idea of love going beyond empirical or rational thought is enlightened within the poem by Cumming’s emphasis on the power of love and what it reveals about humans as individuals. Emily Essert, author of Since Feeling is First: E.E Cummings and Modernist Poet Difficulty from No.15 of The Journal of E.E Cummings Society agrees heavily with this interpretation of the poem. Through her analysis, she believes that Cumming’s was attempting to articulate the idea to “live and love rather than think and exists purely in rational terms” (Essert 203 ). Cumming’s has many different ways of reinforcing this theme within the poem. In the beginning of the poem, Cumming’s employs formal diction and simple syntax. The stanzas are short and to the point, providing emphasis on the idea he is trying to convey. For example, the first three lines read “since feeling is first/ who pays any attention/ to the syntax of things”

(1-3).The sentences are very simple and do not have too much detail. Cumming’s uses this format to highlight the meaning of these three lines, that being that because emotions and feelings are very important and “come first” the syntax or logical arrangement of things is not relevant and should not be overanalyzed, which is very clear by the simple words he uses. The use of the word “first” also emphasizes that feeling does indeed always come first, because before we ever say what we feel, we feel what we feel, and the articulation of the feeling will never be as good as the feeling itself. In the middle of the poem, Cummings uses personification and repetition. The poem reads, “will never wholly kiss you/wholly to be a fool...my blood approves/ and kisses are a better fate/than wisdom”(5-6). The comparison of “kisses” and

“wisdom” and kisses being a “better fate” than wisdom or knowledge directly states that affection and love overpowers rational thought or wisdom. Personification is also present in the middle of the poem in the line reading “my blood approves.” The use of this personification suggests strong feelings and emotions. The passion and love he has for whomever the poem is about flows throughout his entire body, like his blood. This further emphasizes the theme regarding the importance of love and the strength of emotion over reason. At the end of the poem, it reads “don’t cry/-the best gesture of my brain is less than/ your eyelids’ flutter which says/ we are for each other…”(10-12). What Cumming’s is saying in these lines is that all of his thoughts and knowledge are “less than” or unimportant when the person he loves flutters their lashes, which tells him that they are meant for eachother. This communicates the theme by directly stating that reasoning and rational thought, known to come from the mind, mean nothing in the face of his emotions for this person batting their eyelashes. In the end of the poem, Cumming’s employs metaphors to articulate the theme once more. The poem reads “then/ laugh, leaning back in my arms/ for life’s not a paragraph/ and death i think is no parenthesis”(13-16). Cumming’s compares life to a paragraph and death to parentheses. What he implies by this comparison is that life is not something capable of being written and rewritten, it is unchangeable and death is something unavoidable and is not an afterthought. Therefore, the two lovers being written about in the poem should not focus on overthinking and overanalyzing and should instead focus on their emotions and their love for eachother (because once again, emotion and love triumphs reason and knowledge). Furthermore, the linguistic diction used by Cummings with the words “syntax” “parenthesis” and “paragraph” directly compares reason to love. This literary vocabulary shows mental activity and reasoning which competes with the emotion that is throughout the poem, further highlighting the idea about reason versus love. Each stanza works to emphasize the central theme: love and emotion is more valuable than knowledge and reason brought by overanalysis. Additionally, this theme is seen in another one of E.E Cummings poems called love is thicker than forget.

Love is divorced from reason and rationality, and possesses more power than knowledge or thought. This theme is present in E.E Cumming’s poem love is thicker than forget, which discusses the authors passion towards his beloved. This poem helps to advise the theme by emphasizing the strength of love and how it cannot be associated with reason. These ideas have been deeply discussed by Azman Esmaeili, author of the journal article Foregrounding in Two E.E Cummings Poems: Its implications for Teaching Poetry from No.20 of Spring: The Journal of the E.E Cummings Society series. Esmaeili agrees that the theme of the poem revolves around the idea that “reason has no place in the world of love, which deals only with feeling” and he believes it is also implied that “love in itself guides people's lives,” not just reason(Esmaeili 160). This stance on the poem is very popular, and is reinforced by Cumming’s use of literary devices. In the beginning of the poem, Cummings employs the use of oxymorons. The first 2 lines are direct opposites(oxymoron): “love is more thicker than forget/ more thinner than recall”(1-2). The use of “thicker” versus “thinner” and “forget” versus “recall” works to emphasize the contradictory nature of love. It can be the happiest and the saddest at the same time. It is not able to be reasoned with and lacks sense for what happens. Also, to add to the idea of reason and rationality not being a part of love, the use of the words thick and thin is quite odd in this scenario. Thick and thin are words typically used to describe concrete objects, but in this case are used to describe love, which is not concrete and cannot be measured. The specific diction here that seems to lack sense indicates an even bigger emphasis on the idea that love does not need reason. In the middle and end of the poem, Cummings uses personification, parallelism and oxymorons all in the same lines. Cumming describes love as “most mad and moonly,”and he describes love as “most sane and sunly”(5,13). Once again, the contradictory nature of the poem is meant to reflect the contradictory nature of love, which is something that cannot be rationalized or reasoned about. It cannot be thoroughly understood or clearly described because it is always changing and too powerful to control. Cummings describes love as “mad” because reason has no place in it, but also “sane” because the power of love becomes a guide for those invested in it, and replaces reason. At the end of the poem, Cummings emphasizes the power of love with imagery. He describes love as “deeper than the sea” and “higher than the sky” as well as something that is immortal, it “cannot die”(8,16). The seemingly contradictory words “higher” and “deeper” are meant to describe love as something that has no limits. It stretches far and beyond and never dies. Powerful beings are always seen as something with infinite limits and immortality, much like love, which is the most powerful emotion.

In conclusion, love is two things: it is the most powerful emotion and leads people's lives, and it should be separated from reason and knowledge. Cummings was a very passionate author with a very individualistic and free-spirited take on love and life. He believed that love is the emotion that can lead people in life, and that the human condition regarding love is that humans divorce reason from love, and cannot enjoy love unless they do. Anyone who has been in love knows that it can make you do crazy things, which is exactly what Cummings believes as well. Logic and rationality does not exist in the realm of emotion.

Works Cited

Cummings, E. E. “[Love Is More Thicker than Forget] by E. E. Cummings.” Poetry Foundation, PoetryFoundation,https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/22224/love-is-more-thicker-than-forget.

Cummings, E E. “Since Feeling Is First.” Daily Poetry, 2 July 2014, https://dailypoetry.me/e-e-cummings/since-feeling-is-first/.

Esmaeili, Azam. “Foregrounding in Two E. E. Cummings Poems: Its Implications for Teaching Poetry.” Spring, no. 20, 2013, pp. 150–166. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/43915458.

Essert, Emily. “‘Since Feeling Is First’: E. E. Cummings and Modernist Poetic Difficulty.” Spring, no. 14/15, 2005, pp. 197–210. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/43915269.

“E.E Cummings.” Poets.org, Academy of American Poets, https://poets.org/poet/e-e-cummings.

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