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What are the three kinds of mass destruction that E. E. Cummings refers to in the first...

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user8304520 | Honors

Posted February 7, 2013 at 7:21 PM via web

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What are the three kinds of mass destruction that E. E. Cummings refers to in the first six lines of each stanza of his poem "what if a much of a which of a wind"?

what if a much of a which of a wind
e.e. cummings

what if a much of a which of a wind
gives the truth to summer's lie;
bloodies with dizzying leaves the sun
and yanks immortal stars awry?
Blow king to beggar and queen to seem
(blow friend to fiend: blow space to time)
—when skies are hanged and oceans drowned,
the single secret will still be man

what if a keen of a lean wind flays
screaming hills with sleet and snow:
strangles valleys by ropes of thing
and stifles forests in white ago?
Blow hope to terror; blow seeing to blind
(blow pity to envy and soul to mind)
—whose hearts are mountains, roots are trees,
it's they shall cry hello to the spring

what if a dawn of a doom of a dream
bites this universe in two,
peels forever out of his grave
and sprinkles nowhere with me and you?
Blow soon to never and never to twice
(blow life to isn't:blow death to was)
—all nothing's only our hugest home;
the most who die, the more we live

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 28, 2013 at 5:25 PM (Answer #1)

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Cummings seems to refer to destruction by wind, snow and military might in the three stanzas of this remarkable poem. The summer wind that turns "king to beggar" seems to offer hope at the end, since "the single secret will still be man." The cold winter winds that "Blow hope to terror" still offer the possibility of new beginnings with the coming spring. But the final apocalypse comes from a n--uclear blast that "bites this universe in two." Its fallout includes the remains of humanity, which "sprinkles nowhere with me and you"; and, in the end, it offers a sad commentary about survival: "the most who die, the more we live." The winds are symbolic for "the essential purity of nature"--a force with which man can only hope to coexist and even alter, but never conquer.

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