The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

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.)