somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond

by E. E. Cummings
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Analysis

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Last Reviewed on July 9, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 306

"somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond" is a 1931 poem written by famed American poet, essayist, author, playwright, and painter E. E. Cummings. It was originally published in his popular poetry collection titled ViVa. As is the case with the majority of his poems, Cummings didn't officially give this poem a title; analysts and readers refer to it as "somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond," since this is the first line of the poem, and they do this with all of Cummings's untitled works.

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Typical of his usual style, the main theme of this poem is love, and some analysts have even said that this might, in fact, be one of Cummings's best and most influential love poems in his entire literary opus. The poem did receive some negative reviews as well, mainly about Cummings's somewhat confusing language and his disregard of proper grammar and punctuation. Cummings did this deliberately so that readers could better understand his emotional state and his thought process. The poem consists of five stanzas and doesn't follow a particular rhyme scheme, meter, or rhythm.

The whole poem is, basically, a love declaration by a speaker who explains to the readers how deep and powerful his love is for this person he seems to adore endlessly. Furthermore, the speaker tells us how this person has been able to change his view on life and how the love he feels for them has made him a different, happier person.

The speaker might actually be Cummings himself, as there are several instances in the poem where it seems that the speaker speaks from experience. Cummings incorporates rich imagery and some symbols which are usually associated with nature; thus, the speaker mentions the beauty of the rose, which is a flower commonly used in poetry and prose as a symbol of love and passion.

The Poem

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 448

The poem “somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond” first appeared in E. E. Cummings’s W: Seventy New Poems, a collection of seventy poems. It is poem 57 in a section often labeled “Poems in Praise of Love and Lovers.” While the first thirty-five poems in the collection emphasize the author’s low estimate of humans as social animals, the final half stresses a positive view of humankind based on individual love and on the bonding created by relationships.

The poem is an interior monologue using Cummings’s lyric and mythic style. Using the Renaissance archetypes of gardens, flowers, and nature as symbols for his mistress and her laudable qualities, Cummings explores the essential rhythms and cycles of the natural world while drawing parallels to idyllic love.

The woman in the poem is thought to be Anne Barton, a witty, vivacious socialite who began an affair with Cummings in 1925. She was his second love, and she restored his liveliness of spirit after his disastrous affair with a married woman who bore Cummings’s first child. The poem begins with a travel/discovery image, as Cummings tries to explore the nature of his relationship with the woman. He is captivated by her but finds her very nearness disconcerting; it reveals what he is missing without her. Stanzas 2 and 3 picture Cummings as a flower, a reversal of the typical comparison of women to flowers; it also portrays the woman as spring and snow, natural and opposing elements. The opening and closing of the flower signify the power of the woman to control Cummings; her very touch opens his petals or closes the heart of his flower.

The woman’s frailty, mentioned in stanza 1, is reiterated in stanza 4; paradoxically, it is the source of her power. This power is intense and compelling; it has the power to “render death and forever with each breathing” (line 16). Cummings’s effort to understand the incomprehensible is stressed in the final stanza, but he is only able to say that the inexplicable exists in such depth that words cannot do it justice.

Though the poem is basically positive and consists of unabashed praise, several paradoxes seem to capture the problems of love as well. This portrait is at times disconcerting, for “beyond any experience” may suggest an inner stillness beyond reach that the poet cannot obtain. A “remote voice” also implies the unpleasant possibility of loss; the “silence” may suggest either muffled suppression or quiet peace.

Finally, the touch imagery suggests not only physical contact but also an inability to comprehend or come to grips with a situation. Such a picture accurately paints the textures and color of love—it is both bane and blessing.

Forms and Devices

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 425

Cummings’s “somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond” utilizes several experimental forms in order to transport the reader beyond the seen world into the unseen. The poem’s synesthetic style is the most important innovation here; Cummings linguistically merges each of the five senses with traits that belong to another sense. The poem begins with sight (eyes) but also emphasizes sound (silence). The second, third, and fourth stanzas deal with the sense of touch and revolve around variations based on the words “closed” and “open.” Yet the ability to feel is also strangely joined with the sight image of stanza 1 as the words “look,” “colour,” “petal,” and “rose” in the middle stanza imply the necessity of vision.

The synesthesia repeats in stanza 5 as Cummings joins sound and sight in the words “the voice of your eyes.” Smell is also implied in “deeper than all roses.” The images culminate in touch, smell, sound, a visual image (having small hands), and the personification of rain.

Experiments with punctuation, capitalization, ellipsis, and fragmentation are also part of the uniqueness of the poem. For example, commas, semicolons, colons, and parentheses are present, while no periods are used. As a result, the reader slides effortlessly from idea to idea, and a simultaneousness of imagery is created.

Other poetic techniques employed by Cummings in the poem include oxymoron and simile. Oxymoron, the joining of opposites, is evident in “the power of your intense fragility” and “rendering death and forever with each breathing.” Similes, comparisons using “like” or “as,” are evident in the reference to the beloved as “Spring” or to himself as the heart of a flower. Personification is also used when Cummings gives human qualities to texture, flowers, and rain.

Another factor is Cummings’s word choices, which suggest a linguistic joining of form and meaning. The complexity of the love relationship is expressed in mono-syllabic words with ordinary suffixes. This joining is also evident in the meter of the poem, which appears to be a type of sprung-rhythm pentameter and suggests the flexibility of opening and closing stressed in stanzas 1 through 3. The perfect rhyme of the final stanza (“understands” and “hands”) also seems to suggest the perfection of the relationship, a perfection that cannot be expressed in word meaning but may be captured in the word appearance, sound, and pacing provided by the author. As the imagery moves from spring to winter to spring again, it is evident that the author has utilized the seasons and the garden to integrate growth, birth, and dying as manifestations of love.

Bibliography

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 129

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.

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