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In Cumming's "somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond," could this poem be...

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jfaeth | High School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted March 15, 2012 at 4:36 AM via web

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In Cumming's "somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond," could this poem be about the love the speaker has for a baby/child, particularly the line "not even the rain has such small hands"?

 

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 15, 2012 at 5:37 AM (Answer #1)

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e.e. cummings' poem, "somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond" speaks of a love for a woman, not a child.

There are many lines that seem to infer that the poem is about the woman a man loves.

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond

any experience, your eyes have their silence:

in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,

or which i cannot touch because they are too near

In this stanza (like a four-line paragraph), I get a sense of a give-and-take relationship between two people. The speaker has never traveled in this "region" before, which I see in terms of a new relationship, or new "territory" in an existing relationship. If I were to write, "frail" would denote a lack of strength (an allusion at the time to the "gentler sex"), whereas "fragile" would make me think more in the terms of a baby. There is a paradox in this relationship—the woman's frailest gesture has the power to "enclose" the speaker. Another paradox occurs in that he cannot touch these "things" because they are too near. This may speak of his close emotional proximity: "too near" might indicate a personal connection that he might not know how to handle. Or, he may need some emotional distance to figure things out, which we often cannot achieve when we are too close to something.

The next stanza also speaks of a woman:

your slightest look easily will unclose me

though i have closed myself as fingers,

you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens

(touching skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose

The idea of being closed indicates a protective stance (or inexperience) on the part of the speaker. Babies don't engage in slight looks: adults do. Babies seem much more focused taking in everything they see. "Slightest look" give me the sense of a casual glance. I also don't think that adults close themselves against babies, but open their hearts to them, and lose something of themselves to the infant—forever. The speaker notes that "her" look can make him open up, though he has (till this point) closed himself as fingers. The woman is able to open the man's heart, and we can infer gently—as she opens him one petal at a time, a gentle time-consuming work, and as "Spring" opens roses, also a gentle process. The phrase "touching skillfully, mysteriously" also alludes to a woman rather than a baby.

or if your wish be to close me, i and

my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,

as when the heart of this flower imagines

the snow carefully everywhere descending;

The speaker then seems to note that his heart will close quickly again, if he senses a lack of warmth from her, seen as the falling of "snow."

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals

the power of your intense fragility...

rendering death and forever with each breathing

Here may be a sexual or emotional inference. Referred to in a sexual context or used in literature, "la petite mort" ("small death) can apply to a sexual experience or to a bad occurrence that makes one feel something "small" has died inside.

(i do not know what it is about you that closes

and opens; only something in me understands

the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)

nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

The speaker does not understand what welcomes him and shuts him out. A look affects him deeply; the "small hands" I believe refer to her ability to reach into the smallest part of his being, the inner chambers of his heart, to touch him as nothing else can.

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