Poetry commentary on Essay
Edward Estlin Cummings was an American poet – the second most widely read poet in the United States, after Robert Frost – born in 1894. He was immensely popular, especially among younger readers for his work; he experimented radically with form, punctuation, spelling and syntax. The majority of his poems turn to the subjects of love, war, and sex, with such simplistic language, abandoning traditional techniques to create new means of poetic expression.
“Somewhere I have never travelled”, is a very highly acclaimed poem. The narrator speaks of his lover, and the power, which attaches him to her. The title, “Somewhere I have never travelled”, is significant to the romantic theme of the poem. It is quite a complicated concept, and at first glance, it is not quite clear, however by looking deeper into the poem, the title has a deeper romantic meaning than might first be perceived. The speaker is describing how his lover is able to touch in every aspect of him.
The frequent references to roses and fragility seem slightly sexist, as it is easy to interpret this as the speaker seeing women as beautiful but weak creatures. However, the fragility, which he speaks of, is not a lack of strength – physical, mental or emotional – in his beloved. Instead, he is appreciating the complexity of her being, which he explores when he interacts with and loves her on different levels – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. She is so fragile because any action on his part produces an effect on her, “death and forever with each breathing”, she is so sensitive to his existence. Any change, which he brings about in her, he considers to be breaking her, in a metaphorical sense.
“Fragility” however, can also be powerful, “the power of your intense fragility”. The idea of frailness/fragility in this poem is slightly paradoxical; because the speaker finds his beloved so fragile; this has powerful effect on his emotions and spirit. It is intense because of the highly charged emotions involved. “Whose texture compels me with the colour of its countries”, this quotation refers to her, being so infinitely complex, there are so many areas the speaker has yet to discover in loving her. It renders “death and forever with each breathing”, as previously explained, the smallest action on the speaker’s part, in this case breathing, alters his beloved. This, in a sense, causes death of who she was at the moment before his breathing, and this whole concept of fragility theoretically allows for eternal love, since there will always be new regions, and a new person, to love, as summed up in the title; “somewhere I have never travelled”. “Death and forever” describes the speaker’s feelings, like a sudden plunge in his heart because his love is so deep, aching and yet so full of hope and wonder.
E.E. Cummings use of language is quite ambigious as this is only one of many possible interpretations. His use of diction expresses the love in so gentle a way, yet with such powerful and passionate meaning, effectively captivating the reader; it combines vivid images with intense use of language. The entire poem is a metaphor; the narrator is comparing his lover’s qualities, to that of a rose, though it never directly mentions the word “love”, the essence of love is worded beautifully.
There is constant imagery of nature; the flowers closing and opening, the seasons and elements and references to the sense of touch, “you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens”. This reminds us of the closeness of the lovers and emphasizes the spontaneity of the lovers, their preference for intuition or feeling over thought. There is also repetitive use of the words “close” and “open”, E.E. Cummings is expressing the power of a woman over the man who loves her. She can open him as spring opens a rose, or close him as snow closes a flower; again, the use of language conjure images of nature, suggesting the vitality of their love. The subject of the poem is synonymous with nature, and possesses the same serenity, comfort, and beauty that flowers and nature do. No verbal communication is taking place between the two lovers, though they communicate their inexplicable feelings through their eyes, only then knowing how real it is, “the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses”. “Somewhere I have never traveled”, takes the form of five quatrains, and though there is no rhyme in the first four quatrains, however, there is rhyme present in the final quatrain. There could be different possibilities as to why; E.E. Cummings may be differentiating the last stanza from the previous four. In the first four stanzas, the speaker is conveying his thoughts on his beloved’s qualities, and what she does to him. There is frequent use of adverbs and parentheses, “touching skilfully, misteriously beautifully, suddenly”, the poet lingers over particular words or phrases so as to qualify and define them more exactly. The rhyme in the final stanza accentuates the conclusion of the poem, where the speaker asserts the effect of all of which has previously stated, almost like a confession, to demonstrate his love, “; only something in me understandsthe voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses”.
The final line of the final quatrain, “nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands”, is probobly the most profound line of the entire poem. This repeats all which the poet has preveiously stated, about his lover being able to touch him so deeply. One interpretation is that there referance to “small hands”, is the common metaphor for incompetence or not being able to do much. In this sense, he may be talking about himself in that he is helpless under the power of the intense fragile love, and the connection to his lover in this poem. “Not even the rain”, may be referring to how the rain is infinately both powerful and delicate and how it conjures emotions from deep within a person. This final line, however, can also be interpreted in a different way. Instead of the “small hands” belonging to the speaker, the “small hands” possibly belong to his beloved, and it is the speaker that is the rose. Roses that are closed will open up when it rains, only rain can open up a fragile rose without harming it. He is telling her she is so special to him that only she has been able to “open him up” or even, make him feel able to open up to anyone. The rain has the ability to get into every crevice and hole in the ground and manages to touch everything. In a way, it seems inevitable that the rain should soak anything left outside in its reach. The person he is speaking of has “hands” that are so small they manage to touch every aspect of his life in such an intricate way, that not even the rain could be so precise and cover as much of his heart, “nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands”. This poem is very unique, there are so many ways to interpret it, and still every interpretation emphasises the speakers emotions. There is no rational justification for the cryptic words and phrases used, the reader must look very deeply into the poem to find the hidden connotations, however, this poem could still be considered one of the closest linguistic approximations to what love is.