Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“My father moved through dooms of love” is a tribute to Cummings’s dead father, but it lacks many of the elements one might expect in an elegy. There is no physical description of the deceased, no mention of mourning or refusal to mourn, and, in fact, no mention of the father’s death beyond the use of the past tense. In a very real sense, the poem is not about the poet’s father at all, but about a philosophy of love and of life. Cummings raises the poem to this level by avoiding any specific references to his father. There are no details or anecdotes in the poem that point to one particular man, no clues to the identities of those around him. Beginning with his genuine respect for his father, Cummings exaggerates his father’s capacities to delineate his own ideals. The poem’s father is not a man, but an idealized representation of what an individual could be, of how love can operate in the world.

For Cummings, the individual is of great importance. Love as Cummings believes in it is not an ethereal gift of the spirit world, but a force that exists in the natural world that people inhabit. There is no call to a higher power to solve the world’s ills; only the individual, battling evil with the power of love, can redeem the world. Through the example of the life of one person—not a divine savior, but a man as human as the poet’s own father—the poem demonstrates the effect that one individual can have on other people. Through his love,...

(The entire section is 466 words.)