The Poem (Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition)
E. E. Cummings’s “my father moved through dooms of love” is an elegy in seventeen four-line stanzas. The poem commemorates Cummings’s own father, the Reverend Edward Cummings, a Unitarian minister and Harvard University professor.
The poem is written in the first person. Unlike much of Cummings’s love poetry, in which the speaker addresses his beloved while the reader overhears, in this poem the speaker addresses the reader directly. Cummings offers the example of his father’s life for the reader to consider and closes the poem with the moral of the story.
The first four stanzas make up the first section of the poem, which introduces the speaker’s father as a man with a tremendous capacity for love. His father, Cummings makes clear, understood the complexities and dangers of loving. The repeated pattern “my father moved through this of that” may be understood to mean “my father experienced this before he achieved that” or “my father opened himself to the risk of this in order finally to achieve that.” The first stanza gives a picture of a man who realized the danger of being rejected (“dooms”), the risk of losing one’s identity in a love relationship (“sames”), and the potential of a lover to become possessive or possessed (“haves”). He faced these dangers squarely and finally emerged as a whole man, capable of loving and being loved. He used this...
(The entire section is 536 words.)
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Forms and Devices (Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition)
Many of Cummings’s most famous poems, including “in Just-” and “r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r,” rely on the poet’s play with typography and space on the page to convey his message. “My father moved through dooms of love” belongs to the body of Cummings’s work that uses more conventional imagery and stanzaic form. Although each of the sections describing his father is self-contained, Cummings unifies them and underscores their common theme of humanity’s connectedness to the natural world, by threading through them imagery of the passing of time and the cycle of birth, growth, death, and rebirth.
The imagery in the first section is of awakening and birth, and here Cummings deals with different levels of time. The life cycle is played out with each sunset and sunrise. The father operates at the renewal phase of the cycle in line 3: “singing each morning out of each night.” The immediacy of the night-into-day cycle is important to the poem, because Cummings emphasizes the role of the individual within the universe. Stanza 4 reminds the reader that what is at stake is not only tiny roots but also mountains; Cummings is concerned not only with the passing of a day but also with the time it takes for a mountain to grow.
The most important example of the life cycle in this poem is the changing of the seasons. Stanza 3 describes his father’s love as an “April touch” that, like spring, awakens “sleeping selves.” Stanza 7 picks...
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Bibliography (Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition)
Ahearn, Barry, ed. Pound/Cummings: The Correspondence of Ezra Pound and E. E. Cummings. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996.
Bloom, Harold, ed. E. E. Cummings: Comprehensive Research and Study Guide. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2003.
Dumas, Bethany K. E. E. Cummings: A Remembrance of Miracles. London: Vision Press, 1974.
Kennedy, Richard S. E. E. Cummings Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1994.
Kidder, Rushworth M. E. E. Cummings: An Introduction to the Poetry. New York: Columbia University Press, 1979.
Lane, Gary. I Am: A Study of E. E. Cummings’ Poems. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1976.
Norman, Charles. The Magic Maker: E. E. Cummings. Rev. ed. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1972.
Sawyer-Lauçanno, Christopher. E. E. Cummings: A Biography. Naperville, Ill.: Sourcebooks, 2004.
Wegner, Robert E. The Poetry and Prose of E. E. Cummings. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1965.