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What is the role of instinct versus intellect in the poem "since feeling is first" by...

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keith40 | (Level 3) eNoter

Posted March 11, 2012 at 7:45 AM via web

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What is the role of instinct versus intellect in the poem "since feeling is first" by e.e. cummings [no caps]?

http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~richie/poetry/html/poem162.html

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noahvox2 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted March 11, 2012 at 10:31 AM (Answer #1)

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In 1926, e.e. cummings wrote the 16-line poem "since feeling is first", whose title is drawn from the poem's opening line.

As the opening line suggests, intellect, connoted in cummings' word "feeling" is the driving force in the world of love described in this poem. As a student of Classics at Harvard, cummings knew plenty about syntax, which he mentions in line 3. When I think of syntax, I think of grammatical rules; and love is rather unfamiliar with rules, especially when an activity like kissing is involved, which cummings mentions in lines 4 and 8. The poet argues that a person whose focus is a rigid subject like syntax "will never wholly kiss you". Our poet also remarks in lines 8 and 9 that "kisses are a better fate / than wisdom." Thus, to experience a truly magnificent kiss, to experience a truly wondrous love, one must rely on instinct rather than intellect.

Additionally, at lines 11-13, cummings also appears to return to this theme when he writes that

the best gesture of my brain is less than

your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other:

Thus, in these lines, cummings contrasts the intellect ("brain") with something that is instinctive, the flutter of his beloved's eyelids. It is this involuntary fluttering of the eyelids that confirms the love between the two rather than anything that his intellectual capacity could concoct.

 

 

 

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shenkerism | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted March 11, 2012 at 9:59 AM (Answer #2)

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The person described in the first paragraph pays abrupt attention to the way things work, the order they come in, and whatnot, and e.e. cummings proposes that that man will never kiss with full emotion. The diction of "blood" and "flowers" imply nature and instinct, alongside his saying that "life's not a paragraph" and "death i think is no parenthesis."

The comparison between the two causes us to feel slight pity for the rational man, and happiness towards the protagonist. It helps us understand the archetype of the beauty and goodness of nature.

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