[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

by e. e. cummings
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“[i carry your heart with me (i carry it in]” Summary

[i carry your heart with me (i carry it in]” is a 1952 poem by E. E. Cummings that describes the speaker’s inextricable bond with their beloved.

  • The speaker declares that they carry their beloved’s heart within their own and that their beloved is always with them.
  • The speaker is unafraid of fate or the world, because they equate both with their beloved, who is also one with the moon’s meaning and the sun’s song.
  • The speaker describes their carrying of their beloved’s heart as the “deepest secret” of the universe and the essence of the transcendent “tree called life.”

Summary

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Last Updated on December 3, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 606

Introduction

E. E. Cummings (often styled e.e. cummings) is considered one of most prolific and influential poets of the twentieth century. Born in Massachusetts in 1894, Cummings went on to pen close to 3,000 poems during his lifetime while also continuing to produce plays, autobiographies, and essays. “[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in],” published in 1952, stands out among his extensive oeuvre as both encapsulating his signature syntactic playfulness and exploring many of the central themes that recur throughout his art.

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Summary

The first stanza of “[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” introduces the reader to the central conceit of the poem: the inextricable love the speaker feels for their beloved. The pair is so interconnected that the speaker metaphorically carries their beloved’s heart within their own and thus is never truly separated from their partner. Anywhere the speaker travels alone, the beloved travels as well. Anything the speaker does alone, the beloved has also done. In this way, the first stanza illustrates love’s power to fuse two separate people into one entity wherein they become indistinguishable from one another.

In the second stanza, Cummings broadens the initial conceit expressed in stanza 1, raising the speaker’s beloved from being inextricable from the speaker’s own soul to being inextricable from the natural world as a whole. Immense concepts such as fate and the world are reduced to the simplicity of the beloved. The beloved is the speaker’s fate, just as they are the speaker’s world. The unknowable and the inexpressible (i.e., the meaning of the moon and what the sun sings) has also suddenly become tangible. Everything that is frightening about the human experience due to its complexity—even our own inability to comprehend the beauty and essence of the natural world—is made simple through the preeminent power of love.

The final stanza of “[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” continues the pattern of escalation, leaving the wonders of the natural world behind in pursuit of the ultimate purpose of human existence. It mirrors the natural imagery of the second stanza, referencing roots, buds, the sky, trees, and stars, but its subject matter is even more complex. For although the concepts of fate, the world, the moon, and the sun are nebulous and difficult to comprehend as it is, the third stanza turns inward and introduces humanity beyond the couple for the first time in the poem. The speaker has uncovered a secret that “nobody knows,” implying that this deep secret and wonder has been the subject of much human exploration. We are not satisfied with the root or the bud or the sky, but continue searching for “the root of the root,” “the bud of the bud,” “the sky of the sky.”

The fourth line of the stanza hints that this secret is beyond human comprehension—“grow[ing] higher than the soul can hope”—and yet somehow unavoidable at the same time: “higher than . . . mind can hide.” There is a sense that while we may be able to dimly understand the vastness of human purpose, we have never been able to pin it down in any meaningful way—that each discovery has only opened up more questions. The final line of the poem is almost defiant toward the convoluted imagery of the third stanza in its underwhelming simplicity. The deepest secret the speaker teased is as uncomplicated as the plain diction Cummings employs throughout the poem; it is the speaker’s inseparable connection with their beloved that has allowed them to solve the mystery of their purpose on earth.

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Themes