Friday, October 23, 2009

a wind has blown the rain away by E.E. Cummings - a Poetry Friday post

Today is a gusty sort of autumn day, the kind that catches you by surprise, being more than 20 degrees cooler than it was yesterday, and filtering what light there is through a fine haze of spidery clouds. So when I signed onto my laptop and saw a quote from E.E. Cummings on my iGoogle homepage, it struck me as perfect for today.

Before you read the poem at all, I encourage you to read it aloud. I think you'll appreciate the sound of the poem better, and get a better a sense of its motion that way. (I grant you I could be wrong.)

a wind has blown the rain away
by E.E. Cummings

a wind has blown the rain away and blown
the sky away and all the leaves away,
and the trees stand. I think i too have known
autumn too long

          (and what have you to say,
wind wind wind—did you love somebody
and have you the petal of somewhere in your heart
pinched from dumb summer?
          O crazy daddy
of death dance cruelly for us and start

the last leaf whirling in the final brain
of air!)Let us as we have seen see
doom’s integration………a wind has blown the rain

away and the leaves and the sky and the
trees stand:
        the trees stand. The trees,
suddenly wait against the moon’s face.

Now the thing is, most folks think Cummings was quite the experimenter. And I suppose he was, but I'd like to draw your attention to the form of the poem you just read: It's a sonnet. It is, more specifically, a Shakespearean sonnet, rhymed ABABCDC'DEFEFGG' (where the little "prime" marks indicate the use of slant rhyme, rather than perfect line, as in "somebody" with "daddy" and "trees" with "face". The poem doesn't look like a Shakespearean sonnet at first because he's split the fourth line and tacked half of it onto the second quatrain, and because of some of the other indentations and punctuation added in there. But it is decidedly a Shakespearean sonnet and, what's more, most of it is in iambic pentameter as well (five iambic feet per line, taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM).

So Cummings may have been quite adept at experimenting, but he often worked within established forms in doing so. I love that about him. And I've only recently developed a real interest in his work, having known over the years a mere handful of his poems ("love is more thicker than forget", "i carry your heart with me", "maggie and milly and molly and may" and "in Just-spring").

I like the motion of this poem, and how it seems to spin down and across the page - something Cummings accomplished through careful word choice. I also like the imagery, and his phrase "o crazy daddy of death" - to me, he's speaking of Old Man Winter, but I suppose it could be Time or the Hermit or the Crone, depending on one's perspective. Because of Cummings's language, I picture the Reaper spinning his scythe across the landscape, leaving only those trees in front of the moon. I'd be interested in knowing what you make of this poem.

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Rodrigo Anzola said...

I also enjoyed Cummings poem. I had analyze it a few weeks ago at my university, so yes, I am just an english student from Venezuela. Not knowing much about sonnets I have found the info in your blog, together with other sources, quite useful.
Considering previous poems from the author, as well as the fact that he is considered one of The Lost Generation's writers, I did see a little of the winter in this poem; however, I saw mainly war.

I thought 'blown away' to be a phrasal verb so I looked it up in an Oxford dictionary and to my surprise it meant killing somebody by firing a weapon. So this wind is a killer wind.
I have also heard that Cummings made many references to the classics. At fist, I didn't think there was any reference to Greek mythology in the poem. I still have my doubts. But the Anemoi who were supposed to be wind gods in greek mytholy called my atention. Among them, the one related to the winter, the north wind "Boreas", was also called "The Devourer" and had a violent temper.
In this poem I see soldiers as trees, suffering from a long autumn in which a killer wind (the war) takes everything away from them even the sky, so all they long for and wait for is the arrival of winter (death) to end their sufferings.
A really dark point of view, huh? And still, Lost Generation writers used to criticize the horrors from war. After reading Cumming's "Buffalo Bill's defunct","next to of course god america i" and "my sweet old etcetera" among others, an interpretation that entails war depiction is in my humble opinion quite possible.
Probably there are even more symbols and images in this poem that would prove useful in analysing the poem but unfortunately I could not see more, maybe someone else will.

PD: Nice blog! and as I said before, I've found it quite useful. Cheers.

Kelly Fineman said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comments - and what an interesting interpretation!

The verb "to blow away" can mean "to kill", or "to impress", or simply "to blow (something) away" (in a benign manner). I really like your interpretation - very well-done!

TomM said...

Thanks, Kelly for a Fine posting. & Thanks E.E.(Mr.)Cummings for instigating an era freed of stuffy, obligatory capitals and requiring personal responsibility for understanding the meaning of creative writing AND the high certainty of insouciance!

I could say much more in the fine high space left where the sky was before mr cummings's wind blew it away, but I shall here end and proceed to"prove [I'm] not a robot" -hopefully with adequate success.
:pT TomM

Lynn Goya said...

This has always been one of my favorite cummings poems, but I never thought of it as an anti-war poem. He had many poems suggesting his views of the war including
i sing of Olaf, glad and big, whose warmest heart recoiled at war, a conscientious object-or.

Lynn Goya said...

This has always been one of my favorite poems. I love the stark imagery. Cummings wrote many poems about war including, "I dream of olaf, glad and big, whose warmest heart recoiled at war, a conscientious object-or"

Ben Thomas said...

I don't know that I understand it and I really, really want to--give me a hand?

BG Thomas

Ben Thomas said...

I thought I made a comment--but I don't see it. Here goes again...

I like this poem but I don't really understand it...been reading it on and off again for the last week.

Any chance you'll give me your thoughts?

BG Thomas