Tuesday, August 15, 2006

if if have made,my lady,intricate

by E. E. Cummings

if i have made,my lady,intricate
imperfect various things chiefly which wrong
your eyes(frailer than most deep dreams are frail)
songs less firm than your body's whitest song
upon my mind -- if i have failed to snare
the glance too shy--if through my singing slips
the very skillful strangeness of your smile
the keen primeval silence of your hair

-- let the world say "his most wise music stole
nothing from death" --
                                               you only will create
(who are so perfectly alive)my shame:
lady through whose profound and fragile lips
the sweet small clumsy feet of April came

into the ragged meadow of my soul.

* * *

I came across this poem in an anthology the other day, and I've decided I don't detest everything Cummings ever wrote. (I capitalize him out of pure defiance. I deny that writing "E. E. Cummings" can be considered incorrect.)

Dr. Thursday might point out that this, like all good love poems, can be spoken to God. In honor of the day, I apply it to Mary -- "the lady through whose profound and fragile lips / the sweet small clumsy feet of April came / into the ragged meadow of my soul." She said "Fiat" and a new spring came to the earth.

11 comments:

Meredith said...

It's a shame that E. E. Cummings (nyah nyah!) was so attached to his typographical tics that he maked his often-good poetry inaccessible, due to the intensely annoying nature of said tics. Basically Cummings had acquired his first typewriter and he was a little too enchanted with his new toy. He thought it was SO COOL that he could make, ooooo, typos.

I've often thought that someone should iron out most of the weird punctuation/caps in his work. Then we would be able to appreciate it on its real merits:

If I have made, my lady, intricate
Imperfect various things chiefly which wrong
Your eyes (frailer than most deep dreams are frail)
Songs less firm than your body's whitest song
Upon my mind -- if I have failed to snare
The glance too shy--if through my singing slips
The very skillful strangeness of your smile
The keen primeval silence of your hair--
let the world say "His most wise music stole nothing from death"--
you only will create
(who are so perfectly alive) my shame:
Lady through whose profound and fragile lips
The sweet small clumsy feet of April came
Into the ragged meadow of my soul.

Sheila said...

Ha ha -- I'd like to see The Copy-Edited Cummings Anthology. Make him readable for those of us born with red pens in our hands.

Chestertonian said...

I've never read any Cummings. The all lowercase name always put me off: I figured someone that pretentious was probably a crappy poet.

Hi Sheila! :-)

Chestertonian said...

Btw, Sheila, did you know the entire background of this blog page has somehow turned into a link to the "announcing the winners" post?

Sheila said...

Oopsie! Thanks for telling me! *runs off to go fix it*

Anonymous said...

Just a note- E.E. Cummings himself capitalized his name. Many other people just didn't because he so often didn't capitalize things in his poems. Other people picked up on it and it stuck.

Also, outside of poetry, he capitalized his "I"s. In a poem, he always wrote "i". (for instance,"if i have failed to snare..." in the poem above.

Pete said...

You all, with your red pens and desperate grammar opinions, are exactly what cummings loved to satirize in his work. Go out and smell the spring breeze.

Bill W. said...

Hurrah, Pete. You're absolutely right. Cummings was a strange amalgam of bitter intolerance and sweet romanticism, but what he detested most was the kind of petty pedantry that seems to animate most of the comments on this page. Go out and smell the breeze, indeed, and stop dissecting roses and analyzing kisses. (Then again, I suppose someone has to keep the 'anal' in analysis...)

Anonymous said...

I always liked e e cummings for his typos
i thought it was a
distinguishing theme for him. It just
kept you on your toes while
readING HIM.

Preston said...

Cummings was essentially a cubist poet. Cubism is the art form of looking at one object from multiple vantage points simultaneously. To correct the grammar and syntax of Cummings would be akin to straightening out Picasso's famous cubist guitar... you know... so we could "tell what it was" and appreciate it on it's "real merits."

Anonymous said...

Actually, Cummings signed his name with upper case letters. The printed lower case names on books were done by later editors.