Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1381
“somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond” begins with the title words. The words, “somewhere” and “travelled” imply that the speaker is about to tell the reader about a journey that he has taken or will take. This journey is a happy one, as the word “gladly” indicates, although the reader does not know at this point the destination of this journey. In the end of the first line and beginning of the second line, the poet clarifies that this journey is “beyond / any experience” that he has ever had. He also, curiously, notes that “your eyes have their silence.” The “your” indicates that the speaker is talking to another person, who for some reason has silent eyes. The reader can determine that the poet is discussing metaphysical concepts, abstract ideas that cannot be experienced by one’s physical senses. In the real world, eyes do not have the capability of producing noise, so they are, by default, silent. The discussion of the person’s eyes, along with the use of the word “gladly,” gives readers their first indication that this might be a love poem. Eyes are thought by many to be a window into a person’s soul, and poets often describe their lovers’ eyes in positive terms.
In the third line, the use of the words “frail gesture” indicates that the person to whom the speaker is dedicating this poem is most likely a woman. At the time this poem was written, frailty was often used to describe womanhood. While this idea has since become a negative stereotype to many, readers in cummings’s time would have recognized this frailty as a compliment to the woman in the poem. The speaker notes that this woman’s frail gestures contain “things which enclose me,” or which he “cannot touch because they are too near.” The speaker is not saying that these things are literally enclosing him. Instead, these things— the feelings that are produced in the speaker by this woman’s enchanting glance—are so powerful that he feels enclosed by them. At the same time, although these feelings surround him, he cannot touch them, because they are so all-consuming that they have become a deeply ingrained part of him. At this point, the reader can see that when the speaker discusses the “somewhere” to which he is travelling, he is not talking about a literal, physical journey. Rather, his journey is metaphysical, and the woman’s eyes are the means by which the speaker makes this journey.
The speaker underscores the power of the woman’s glance with the first two lines of the second stanza. The speaker notes that the woman can easily “unclose,” or open him, even though he has up until that point “closed myself as fingers.” Here, the speaker is talking about the power of love to change a person’s perspective. The speaker could be talking about his feelings about love. Perhaps he has been hurt in the past and so has closed himself off from the idea of love. Or, he could be closed in the sense of being pessimistic about the current state of society. When cummings wrote the poem, the United States was in the grip of the Great Depression, a financial disaster that changed the lives and moods of many. In any case, the speaker’s love for this woman has opened him up, and he is basking in these new emotions. In the third line of the stanza, the speaker elaborates on how the woman opens him up, using the analogy of a rose opening up in spring. In this poem, however, the speaker personifies the season of spring. Poets use personification when they give human-like qualities to nonhuman items. When the poet notes that “Spring opens / (touching skilfully,mysteriously) her first rose,” he is referring to spring as a person, who is physically opening up the rose.
The speaker continues his discussion of the woman’s power, noting that just as she can easily open him up, “if your wish be to close me, i and / my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly.” The speaker is in the woman’s complete control, to the point that she has power over his life and his death. While death is generally considered a negative concept, in the context of this poem, the speaker describes it as beautiful, equating his hypothetical death with the impending death of a flower, which “imagines / the snow carefully everywhere descending.” Again, the poet uses personification.
While a flower is alive in the organic sense, it does not have the human quality of imagination. By describing the rose in this way, the poet paints a unique picture. The rose, coming to the end of its seasonal life in the fall, is imagining the snow that will soon be falling, a sign of the flower’s impending and unavoidable death in winter. Since the lifecycle of the rose is eternal (the flower will experience a rebirth again in spring) its death is not tragic. By equating his own hypothetical death at his lover’s hands with the rose’s death, the speaker’s death is not tragic, either. It is important that the speaker does this. A discussion of death could very easily give this love poem a negative mood. By referring to death “beautifully,” the poem retains the positive mood that it established with the word “gladly” in the first stanza.
In the first line of the fourth stanza, the speaker alludes to the metaphysical quality of the woman’s power, by noting that “nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals / the power of your intense fragility.” Again, this woman’s fragility, or femininity, is so powerful that it transcends the physical world. The speaker examines the “texture” of this femininity, which he says “compels” him with the “colour of its countries.” A reader may at first be confused by the use of the word, “countries.” The speaker does not literally mean that the woman’s intense femininity is composed of countries, in a geographic sense. Rather, by referring to the woman in this way, the speaker makes the woman seem larger than life, as if her feminine powers occupy a metaphysical world of their own. The speaker has already referred to the physical “world” in the first line of this stanza. Now, in this feminine, metaphysical world, he examines the countries, or specific details that make up this woman’s femininity, and they fascinate him. In the last line of the stanza, he notes that these feminine qualities can render “death and forever with each breathing.” Here, the speaker builds on the idea of the previous stanza, underscoring the power that the woman has over his life and death.
As the speaker notes in the final stanza, as much as he examines the specific aspects of the woman’s femininity, he does not know “what it is about you that closes / and opens.” The speaker is unsure how the woman has such a power over him, how she can open him or close him, how she can control his life and death so easily. This is not a bad thing. The speaker does not want to know. He is caught up in the mystery of the woman’s power and knows only that “something in me understands / the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses).” Previously in the poem, the speaker has equated his lover’s power to the power that spring has to open a rose. Now, he is saying that his lover’s power is even stronger than this natural, seasonal power. In one final, potent image, the speaker underscores the idea that this woman’s power is unmatched by anything in nature: “nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands.” The speaker is personifying the rain, and imagining it as the “hands” that spring uses to open roses. While this is an impressive natural power, the speaker says that his lover is even more impressive. Her “hands” are smaller, which in this context means that the woman has the ability to open up the speaker to an even deeper extent than that of a rose opened by the spring rains.
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