Last Updated September 5, 2023.
E. E. Cummings pushed the boundaries of language in his poetry with such unabashed courage that his poems easily reflect an intoxication with life. His poems are widely referred to by their first lines, as he did away with giving them titles altogether. His poem "somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond" is perhaps his most famous and widely read love poem.
The entire poem is sparkling with rich imagery, particularly with the way the speaker describes his beloved and makes use of elements in nature—such as roses and rain—to examine his adoration and give praise to the power his beloved has over him. Some of the poem's noteworthy lines display his beautiful use of poetic devices.
In the following lines, the speaker describes the effect his beloved's gestures have on his person:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,or which i cannot touch because they are too near
He particularly shines a light on his beloved's "frail" characteristics and uses these as a way of marveling at the beloved's femininity. His use of this word does not carry with it any derogatory meaning, for it was common during the time this poem was written to attribute characteristics of femininity, fairness, and frailty to a beloved as a way of adoring such distinctions. It also becomes a means for most male speakers to marvel at the female form in light of its difference from the male form. As such, it carries with it an air of mystery, which is an ingredient of romantic love.
There is also the presence of verbal irony, as he describes how, despite the frailty of her gestures, he is captivated by their strength ("are things which enclose me"). He then goes on, mentioning his own powerlessness in that which he "cannot touch" in spite of (and yet precisely because of) being "too near." This use of verbal irony effectively conveys just how elusive his beloved is to him despite his already having her. She continues to evade his understanding—as her very presence in his life is one that leaves him in awe.
To give further praise to her power, he then likens her to spring and himself to a mere rose:
though i have closed myself as fingers,you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose
He breathes life into elements of nature and makes them carry relatable, human characteristics through personification. Here, he describes how, even as he may exhibit characteristics of being closed ("as fingers")—be it out of anger, anxiety, emotional distance, or guilt from inadequacy—the beloved never fails in gently relaxing his tight hold on himself and replacing it with her skillful hold of him, which is tender and loving. Spring is a season of new beginnings, life, and fresh abundance. These are things he sees in (and feels from) his beloved.
The speaker then shows the expanse of her power when, as from Spring, he describes how she is also very much winter through the use of simile (to liken himself to a flower in the midst of snow):
my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,as when the heart of this flower imaginesthe snow carefully everywhere descending;
He declares that, if it were her wish to "close" him (as opposed to opening him like a rose in spring), he would very much still be glad to follow. Here, he ultimately expresses that life and death are hers. Such is his surrender to the beloved that, even at the prospect of death, he would embrace his life's end "beautifully" and "suddenly."...
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This is also very much a hyperbole that takes the reader through and across the tremendous enormity of his love, based in this relinquishment of his own will for that of his beloved—so much so that she rises above being spring or winter and becomes nature itself.
The poem ends with the speaker's overwhelming admittance of his inability to understand the logical reasons for the power of love: the power his "frail" beloved possesses and, in turn, possesses him by. He uses again the movement of closing and opening to denote easily understandable states, a binary way of comprehending simple patterns—similar to how "black and white" or "yes or no" reduce all complexity to categorical meaning:
(i do not know what it is about you that closesand opens;only something in me understands
He proclaims instead that all that ever makes sense (and thus matters to him) is the very complexity of such a creature, the beloved, who possesses aspects that rival the greatness of nature and, ultimately, exceed it:
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands