Feeling and Intellect
Since Feeling is First by e.e. cummings and When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer by Walt Whitman are two poems whose main ideas contrast very much from each other. They both reflect the basic most form of human experiences, that being feeling and intellect since they often come hand in hand. When one is emotional, they often only consider emotion in a given situation rather than facts. In contrast, when one is intellectual, they generally focus on logic rather than sentiments in a given situation. Since Feeling is First focuses primarily on the feelings of an individual. When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer focuses on the intellect rather than feelings. The poems differ from each other concerning their styles of writing and their themes which they encompass. However, both reflect upon the experiences humans can have during ones lifespan.
Since Feeling is First by e.e. cummings is a free verse, non rhyming poem about sentiments. It shows evidence of being based on feelings as a life experience due to the title and the first line where the words ‘feeling’ and ‘first’ are emphasized. The fact that they are repeated provides the reader with the effect of connection and importance. It enables the reader to pay close attention between the two words. e.e. cummings’ style of writing is unique within the poem; he only uses capital letters three times within the poem whereas most writers apply the use of capital letters at each line that represent a new idea. The word ‘i’ in the last sentence is not even capitalized. In addition, he rarely uses punctuation within his poem. This lack of grammar creates ambiguity when reading his piece as it makes it hard for the reader to understand the poem. The first three lines are very clear. They mean when one feels, they do not pay attention to little details that allow one to follow the rules and play by the book (opposing what intellectuals may do). The first three lines relate to his style of writing and show a use of irony as he writes: ‘since feeling is first who pays any attention to the syntax of things…’ (line 1-3). This is ironic as there is a lack of syntax within his piece and one with feelings do not pay attention to this. e.e. cummings also repeats the word kiss within his piece and mentions the word lady. This shows the poem is about a couple in love. Love is an essential component of human experience and is the epitome of feelings. In addition, cummings writes ‘for life’s not a paragraph’ (line 15). By this phrase, he could imply that life cannot be written on the spot in a short paragraph since it is about feelings, sentiments and experiences of coming together and involving oneself to fall in love.
When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer by Walt Whitman is a free verse, non rhyming poem about intellect. The word choice Walt Whitman uses shows it is about intellect: “When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them…” (line 3). These terms are used in math which intellects tend to study. The writing style used changes, specifically with verb tense. The first four lines are in the present tense as if it were live and the last four lines are in the past tense almost as if it were a response to events that occurred. Considering the verb tense, the core theme in the poem is the necessity to displace oneself from their surroundings to have life experiences from a different perspective. A different perspective could include ones opinions and ideas after the event in a response format or to simply develop ones own non bias opinions during an event. As the character described in the poem ‘wander’d off my myself, In the mystical moist night-air’ (line 6-7), they take themselves out of society, becoming an individual and take in their own ideas rather than focusing on the opinions of others. As the character does this and ‘look’d up in perfect silence at the stars’ (line 8) , they do not see intellect such as astronomers or physicists behind the stars, they simply see stars and their own beauty without logic behind it. The development of individuality during life is a major life experience. Being capable of making up ones own mind and developing ideas signifies growing up and maturing.
To conclude, both poems reflect human experiences in different ways. Love and being able to have sentiments is a big part of human experiences as without them, one will be unable to feel sympathy or happiness for other people. The capability of having ones own opinion and being able of forming a perspective is also an important experience for a human. It is almost impossible to grow and mature as a person without being capable of forming a perspective and being confident about intellectuality despite the opinions of others. Word count: 826
Cummings, Michael J. Cummings Study Guides. 2008
Melton. Laura. If “feeling is first,” Then Death Is Last. October 6 1999