somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond

by E. E. Cummings
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Last Updated on July 9, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 353

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The mysterious poem “somewhere i have never traveled, gladly beyond” by E. E. Cummings follows an elusive metaphor and shows a love for an unknown “other.” Widely recognized as one of Cummings’s best love poems, it is vague and ambiguous throughout, which makes it unclear to whom he is speaking and adds an air of mystery to the poem overall.

The Joy of New Experiences and the Unknown

First, there is a clear theme of the joy of new experiences and the unknown. The most prominent aspect of this poem is that we know so absolutely little about the other person, and Cummings expressly states in it that he does not know much more. As the title suggests, being with this person is somewhere he has never traveled, meaning it is an entirely new experience being with this individual, but he assures us and the other person that it is a wonderful experience being with them.

The Beauty of Simplicity and Frailty

A second theme throughout this poem is the idea of beauty found in simplicity and frailty. The other person, who is the subject of this poem, is apparently extremely powerful and beautiful in their frailty. This fragility makes the speaker succumb to their every whim, stating that if it were their wish, they could unclose his life in a moment, or instead, close it up completely. The poem itself is simple and sparse, both in form and structure and in diction. Cummings doesn’t use lofty language, choosing simplicity instead, and this is a mirror of what he states through this theme, the idea of beautiful simplicity or weakness.

The Beauty of Intimacy

A final theme in this work is intimacy, or closeness. The poem's speaker seems to be expressing the beginning stages of intimacy, truly knowing someone else and loving them. He is experiencing knowledge of them and intimacy with them for the first time, and it’s new but welcome. This closeness has made him want to open himself up, or shut himself off completely if that’s what the other wants. This experience of intimacy is portrayed as something beautiful.

Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 388

The narrator of this love poem tries to express the inexpressible, to describe the intensity of his emotions. He finds himself unable to meet the challenge except in paradoxical words that simultaneously express his surprise and wonder at the mystery of love.

The narrator describes the love as similar to a foreign territory, an area never before explored; the effect of the journey is stunning, evoking a disorientation which causes the senses to overlap. Yet at the same time he finds himself unable to delineate the specific elements which attract him; instead, he explores the inexpressible by saying that the sense of touch fails when objects are too near. Love can also bring about a beautiful and sudden seclusion, with the individual shutting out other demands in favor of love; the speaker depicts such a closing by using the image of a flower as it begins to close when it senses falling snow.

Cummings’s descriptions of his beloved as having texture and color indicate her depth of character, but they also, when combined with the word “countries” at the end of line 15, suggest mapmaking and tie in with the poem’s initial image of traveling. Just as explorers of new lands are awed by their initial discoveries, so the narrator reacts with surprise at the variety he finds in his lover, a woman who with her very breathing destroys or breaks down the fear of death and eternity.

The narrator reiterates his inability to understand exactly what it is about the beloved that possesses the power to open and close him. The image of the garden is repeated, as the flower (rose) symbolizes both the narrator and his beloved, and the powerful final line states the incomparable quality of love. No body and no thing (lines 13 and 20) can truly attain the level of the narrator and his beloved. The rain, nurturer of the symbolic garden, though it is important, pales in importance to the small hands of the beloved, whose touch has moved the narrator to ecstasy, to a height of emotion never before experienced.

The five senses, emphasized and raised by the association with love, are combined with the traditional and archetypal symbols of a garden and flowers to serve as symbols for wordlessness, for the inexpressible expressed and given life by the poet’s effort.