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

by E. E. Cummings

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Last Updated on September 6, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 866

The most noticeable element of this poem, especially for one not familiar with E. E. Cummings’s other work, is the author’s blatant refusal to adhere to any semblance of grammatical or syntactical regulation. However, in reading through the poem again, one ought to note the simplistic diction Cummings uses to convey his message. Unlike the nineteenth-century Romantic poets, Cummings relies not on the connotation and imagery attached to certain words but rather on physical presentation and punctuation to illustrate meaning. If we understand the purpose of the first stanza as communicating the power of love to tie two people inextricably together for all time, the language appears almost crude in its literalness. The beauty and depth of the stanza lies in the way Cummings has used (or rather abstained from using) grammar to emphasize this point.

Many of the words are separated from each other only by commas, parentheses, or semicolons without spaces: a physical representation of the couple’s closeness. The poem itself is a tangible representation of this interconnectedness, since it could be considered two poems seamlessly interwoven to create a single piece. For the words within the parentheses create a complete poem in and of themselves, and similarly, one could eliminate the parenthetical content and still read a complete poem. However, although these two pieces make sense separately, they need to be united for the poem to convey its true meaning, just as the couple need to be united through love in order to achieve true meaning in their individual lives.

Another distinct feature of “[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” is Cummings’s choice to keep the poem in lowercase rather than capitalizing proper nouns or the words beginning each line. This has been interpreted a number of ways and is present in many of his other poems, but it is often seen as indicative of the transcendental nature of love. In this poem, the grammatical restraints of proper English syntax can be read as a metaphor for societal restraints on how we as people think, feel, and interact with one another. Grammar and language provide a barrier through which we must filter all of our thoughts in order to make them socially acceptable, rather than communicating our emotions in their rawest form. While this certainly helps us communicate clearly with one another, the narrator and the beloved’s relationship is such that all obstacles between their thoughts have broken down, and they have together transcended the restraints of society.

Cumming also frequently employs enjambment throughout the poem, and the first line in particular is an excellent example of his manipulation of tangible poetic elements to augment meaning. Typically, enjambment is used in poetry to signal colloquial ease or a subversion of the reader’s expectation. But as it becomes clear when one reads the poem’s unusual title, the first line—“i carry your heart with me(i carry it in”—is devoid of meaning without the second. In this way, Cummings utilizes enjambment to illustrate the idea that once a person has fallen in love, they are no longer able to function as an individual unit, and the only way to truly understand them is to understand them in the context of their partnership. This can also be observed through the irregular stanza break between stanzas 1 and 2. “i fear” occupies the space between the two stanzas, connecting them as the lovers are connected, but also playing into the more common use of enjambment. By isolating the emotion of fear, Cummings implies that the second stanza may have a more somber tone, then subverts these expectations through the...

(This entire section contains 866 words.)

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anaphoric first two lines of the stanza—“no . . . / no . . .”—revealing that love has actually cured the narrator of all fear.

Another significant technique used in “[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” is chiasmus (a literary device where words, lines, or concepts are stated and then reversed), which is sometimes referred to as ring structure when executed on a larger scale. The first example of this in the poem appears in the third stanza, which follows an A, B, B, B, A structure, where A represents a line written outside of parentheses and B represents a line written inside of parentheses. Thus, the parenthetical lines of the third stanza are nestled inside of the opening and closing lines, enclosed by both the physical brackets and the chiasmic structure. This structure is mimicked through the construction of the poem as a whole, beginning with the line “i carry your heart with me(i carry it in” (A), followed by three stanzas (B, B, B) and then closing with the line “i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)” (A). In this way, Cummings creates a sense of completion, as the couple is finally united in a single line at the conclusion of the poem, while also implying a sense of infiniteness. The poem ends at its own beginning, in such a way that it could almost run in a perfect loop, much in the same way that the couple’s love has no finite beginning or end but continues in a perfect circle.