i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
It is extremely fruitful to establish, even from the very beginning, that this poem ought to be regarded as modern solely when it comes to its style and expressive devices, not in the approach of its subject matter, nor the subject matter proper. Both of these may be regarded as universal and, even more, the view on love and loving that Cummings expresses in his ‘poem 92’ may easily be traced back to the Renaissance and its spreading throughout Romanticism, Post- Romanticism and European idealistic philosophy.
In regard to philosophy, a broader study of Cummings’s work shall bring to surface the emphasis on the dynamic element of his poems, from which we may easily conclude that he was a transcendentalist. Aspects of such a trend of thought are present here, however the main emphasis is on love, the quintessence of his whole philosophical system, as seen from his statement: “love is the mystery of mysteries.”
Even though bringing anything new in regard to love is virtually impossible, a confession must be made that it is literary and ideologically refreshing to see this particular view (the romantic unity of lovers) in the context of the age the author was a part of.
A definition of the dimension of love is given right in the beginning of the poem, in the form of the first stanza. Although it is rather simplistic and dangerously romantic, Cummings does not fail in his attempt of making this particular statement his own. As Eve Triem brilliantly notices, what concerned Cummings was the fact that “the nature of unity is love”. The “I” and his lover are to be regarded as one entity, both in the plan of existence (“i carry your heart with me […] i am never without it”) and in the plan of activity in the Grand Universal Domain (“anywhere i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling”). Careful consideration should be given here to the very concept of ‘dimension’ and especially ‘dimension of love’. Precisely like space and time, love is a compulsory element of existence: one may not be subtracted from it lest they lose their anchor to the Universe.
At this point, what immediately strikes the reader is the use of lowercase letters all throughout the poem. Critics have been particularly interested in the lowercase use for the first person, personal pronoun. Harold Bloom believes that Cummings’s “i”, which appears four times in the first stanza and opens the second one, is used as such to denote “humility” and “small physical stature”. I believe this particular issue is of greater meaning and consequence than that and it deserves consideration since it is extremely useful towards acquiring a better understand of this poem. The existence of any great creative and intellectual power sees two successive phases that may easily be identified with the two states in which we find Goethe’s Faustus: the titan and the hermit. The Cummings whose work we have under analysis here has reached his hermit/sage posture. All the burning energy and ambition of ‘the titan’ has been turned to the pursuit for a better understand of the nature of things, to sagacity. Cummings understands that his “i” is “zero” in the Greater Universe; such understanding goes beyond simple humility.
The next stanza deals with manifestations of love, from which two sets of such instances may be differentiated: those of the first rank, reflected through the ‘I’, and those of the second rank, reflected through the ‘I’’s perception of the ‘you’/lover. The lyrical persona fears no destiny and wants nothing because he is in the presence of his lover, id est, he is in attunement to Love, which manifests as a shielding and guiding force. The manifestations that have been defined as being of the second rank5 bring a change in focus from the abstract love and how it manifests to the concrete lover. Despite the fact that the last stanza deals, in a very idealistic manner, with abstract love, a careful analysis will not drop the importance of the lyrical ‘I’s’ relationship with his concrete lover from consideration.
We do perceive here (in the line “and whatever a sun will always sing is you”, for instance) a sense of love’s intensity. Although the idea of intense love is nothing out of the ordinary and may be easily overlooked, such luxury cannot be afforded here. It is, first of all, a strong argument in favour of Cummings’s shifting from mere philosophy towards a religion of love in this poem. Moreover, the writer placed a great importance on the idea of intensity, and this may be easily seen in his assessment of his contemporaries and pseudo-definition of art: “Today so-called writers are completely unaware of the thing which makes art what it is. You can call it nobility or spirituality, but I should call it intensity”.
The third and final stanza defines and describes the author’s pseudo7-philosophy of love (and life), as it openly declares in its first line: “here is the deepest secret nobody knows”. ‘The secret’ may be safely re-morphed into ‘the answer’; and, in common perception, the role of philosophy is to provide answers. Love is the center of life and existence. It is a root but also a bud: Love is at the very beginning (root) and also, everything else is just a further development of it (bud); subsequent elements do not come to complement it; they represent its following stages. Love is also “sky of the sky”, so nothing else is above it, or can be above it, for it is everything.
Love is the ultimate power. In support of this, Cummings offers three very interesting examples/traits that deserve attention. First of all, it is “higher than soul”. Beyond the most important constituent element of the human being: it is the meta-metaphysical. Next, there is no hope for the mind to hide it; no hope for the intellect to grasp it. It is grater than the mind, therefore it cannot be understood. Lastly, it is “keeping the stars apart”. An image of physical manifestation is offered here (as opposed to the first two, which are metaphysical), although this ought to be regarded as a metaphor confirming the theory that love is the ultimate Universal power. From the point of view of physics, gravity, which keeps the stars together, is the most powerful of forces to be found in the Universe. Thusly, because it keeps the stars apart, love is anti-gravity and subsequently anti-physical. Precisely in the likeness of (a) God. Cummings’s “pilgrimage to the transcendental” is now complete. The simple feeling of love, mysterious center of an interesting and personal philosophy, has transcended, through intensity and union of lovers, into an all-powerful entity, thus forming something that very much resembles a modern religion. At this point, a very thin line separates the author’s philosophy from a modern religion of love. One more characteristic of love may be extracted from the fact that the author chose to leave out any capital letters in the writing of this poem. With the exception of the “i”, that conveys something about the lyrical persona, the fact that all other letters are lowercase ought to be interpreted in a different register. This effectively removes the idea of beginning or end. Love has neither beginning nor end. And so, at the end of ‘poem 92’, Love has all the traits of the Christian God, or any god belonging to a monotheistic religion for that matter: it is at the root of all things, metaphysical, it represents the ultimate power in the Universe, and has no beginning nor end. The concept of ‘religion of love’ first appeared in the Middle Ages. Cummings is the perfect exponent of a certain feature of modernism that many seem to fail to observe: he helps show that no fundamental problem or perception has actually changed with the passing of time or development of literature. What has changed is only the way of expressing it.
“E. E. CUMMINGS COMPLETE POEMS 1904 – 1962” (edited by George Firmage, New York, 1991)
Eve Triem. “E. E. Cummings”. University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers, No. 87, 1969, page 5.
Harold Bloom. “E. E. Cummings / edited and with an introduction by Harold Bloom”. Chelsea House Publishers, 2003, page 12