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Many poets work diligently to create a unique style to communicate their ideas and leave an indelible mark on the literary world. Edward Estlin Cummings (1894-1962), better known as E. E. Cummings, created an innovative and clearly distinct personal style that reinvented grammatical rules and traditional poetic structures within his pieces. One of his most famous pieces, “i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)” (1952) is an example of his creative use of figurative language, punctuation, and literary devices.
|Poem title||“i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)”|
|Writer||E. E. Cummings|
|Structure||sonnet, refashioned, with an added line for a full 15 lines|
|Rhyme scheme||free verse, lyrical, using internal rhyme|
|Literary devices||Apostrophe, refrain, enjambment, assonance|
|Figurative language||Hyperbole, metaphor, simile|
|Tone||Admiring, caring, affectionate|
|Meaning||The speaker shares an unbreakable bond with the subject of the poem and shows how love is a source of connection.|
This last line of the poem differs from the title and the first line of the poem. Cummings removed the phrase “with me” from this last refrain. What is the significance of removing the words “with me” from this concluding line?
The speaker of the poem is addressing an unidentified muse. Repeating the title of the poem, a refrain that will continue throughout the verse, the speaker asserts a connection so deep and intertwined that the heart of one being lies within the heart of another. They have literally joined hearts. They are together as one, and whatever one does, the other is essentially a part of.
The second stanza of the poem begins with the line “I fear” (line 5) and immediately explains there is nothing to fear. With the beloved, there is no other world to yearn for because the beloved is everything to the poem's speaker. Simultaneously connected to both the moon and the sun, two celestial bodies, the speaker shows a natural relationship with the beloved. As the sun and moon balance night and day, so the speaker and the beloved find unity and balance together.
The next stanza reveals the “secret” to the person the speaker is addressing, and to the audience. The poetic voice states this is the “root of the root” and the “bud of the bud”, or the start and center of everything. For the poetic voice, the essential aspect that keeps the stars in the sky and the world in motion is simply the beloved. The connection and the unity they share is central to life.
A refrain is a word, line, or group of lines repeated throughout the course of a poem. It can be repeated with slight changes and is usually placed at the start or end of a stanza.
Stanzas are lines of verse visually together on a page. A stanza is to poetry what a paragraph is to prose.
E. E. Cummings was a Modernist writer who believed that the true meaning of something is best expressed using precise language. His innovative style experiments with punctuation, capitalization, and form. Using the traditional 14-line sonnet structure with a set rhyme scheme and meter as his foundation, Cummings reformats it to make it his own by adding an extra line consisting of two words and altering the rhyme. The topic, love, is a traditional idea explored in sonnets. Cummings also employs internal rhyme, perfect rhyme, and slant rhyme to help establish the sonnet form further, creating his own version of the traditional form.
Reimagined using his unique style of visual cues, spacing, phrases, lines, and punctuation, Cummings creates a rhythm all his own. No set pattern of rhyme is clear, but internal rhyme, slant (or near) rhyme, and assonance create a unifying structure that makes this lyric poem both musical and memorable.
Internal slant rhyme in words like "heart" (line 1) "never" (line 2) "dear" (line 3) and "darling" (line 4) bring a cohesive unity to the ideas and mimic a childhood nursery rhyme, making the verse appealing to the ears. Instances of assonance, such as the repeated long "o" sound in line 13 with the phrase "soul can hope" bring an emphasis to ideas. The long "o" sound further imitates a musical instrument playing in the background of a song and provides a lilting rhythm.
A lyric poem is a musically inspired verse that conveys powerful emotions or ideas.
Internal rhyme is when words in the middle of the line have the repeating vowel and consonant sounds, creating rhyme.
Slant rhyme, or near rhyme, is when words have similar but not identical sounds.
Assonance is the repetition of identical or similar vowel sounds in a sequence of nearby words.
Modernism is a literary movement that started in the early 1900s and continued into the early 1940s. Rebelling against traditional forms previously used and prominent in the 19th century, modernist poets like E. E. Cummings experimented with form and style, focused on new themes, implemented different modes of expression, and included complex ideas and meanings that were open-ended and had no definitive answer. Other popular modernist writers include Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, and H.D.
E. E. Cummings uses several literary devices to enhance the themes of love and unity, while providing a more profound meaning of an unbreakable bond created by love. Here are some important literary devices for more in-depth analysis.
Throughout the poem, the speaker addresses an unnamed individual. Speaking directly to the beloved gives the poem a unique and intimate feeling.
An apostrophe in literature is a direct or explicit address to an absent person, someone who can't respond (such as the deceased), or an inanimate object. The purpose of an apostrophe is often to communicate deep and intimate emotions and to place the reader's attention on something or someone besides the speaker.
By apostrophizing the beloved throughout the poem, the readers feel an intimate connection to the subject and are included within the action. As though the audience is eavesdropping, we understand the speaker's feelings and are invested in the relationship between the poetic voice and the unnamed beloved. To further personalize the speech, the poetic voice uses terms of endearment like “dear” (line 3) and “darling” (line 4). Immediately, the reader understands the intimate connection the speaker shares with the individual addressed.
Although the use of enjambment is not new in poetry, E. E. Cummings's use of this literary device serves to emphasize his creative liberty in writing and unique style.
Enjambment is the crossing over of ideas from one line to the next without the use of punctuation.
In this second stanza of the poem, we see Cummings implement the use of enjambment to link the ideas together from line to line and to pressure the reader to search for syntactic closure. This need to finish the idea or sentence from the previous line propels the reader forward and helps to give the poem momentum.
From line 5 to 6 the incomplete idea is initially misleading to the reader, and when completed, surprises. The speaker begins by stating “i fear” in line 5 and then abruptly finishes the idea in a novel way by asserting “no fate(for you are my fate, my sweet)” in line 6. Toying with reader expectations, E. E. Cummings manipulates language and form to express the antithesis of what the reader expects. After a strong and simple “i fear” statement, the reader expects to see a list of fears, but rather sees there is no fear present.
Antithesis is an opposition or contrast of ideas.
A unique trait of “i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)” is that it keeps musicality without a traditional rhyme or meter. Although many lines have the same number of syllables, there is no concrete rhyme scheme or pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. One way Cummings achieves the musical feel is through alliteration.
Alliteration is the repetition of the consonant sound in a series of nearby words.
This highly alliterative poem achieves a rhythm through the cycles of alliteration occurring throughout the poem. One such example is in lines 8-9. The repetition of the “m” sound from the words “moon” and “meant” and the repeated “s” sound from the words “sun” and “sing” intertwine with one another and create a verbal rhythm that mimics musical instruments. The “s” sounds like the crash of cymbals, while the “m” provides a deeper bass to the poem. Other instances of alliteration happen in almost every line of the poem, making a connective sound that unifies the poem musically and emphasizes the poem's message of love's ability to unite.
Perhaps the most interesting part of "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)" is that the speaker compares the beloved's heart to a tangible item that can be carted around. Cummings uses this instance of extended metaphor, or a metaphor that goes on for more than one line, to express the importance of love and how it remains with the beloved, even in the absence of the physical being. Highlighting the beloved's importance in the speaker's life, line 6 expresses a cosmic connection between them.
The poetic voice refers to the beloved as "fate," and something destined to be.
Reinventing the traditional tendency of using elements of nature to shape descriptions, Cummings draws more direct comparisons by stating the beloved is "whatever a moon has always meant" (line 9) and "whatever a sun will always sing" (line 10). By stating she is not merely the moon and the sun, but the meaning of the moon and the sun's song, Cummings twists traditional interpretation and gives the beloved's importance to a deepened purpose and context. She becomes fundamental to the cosmos.
Like many other lyric poems, “i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)” deals with complex emotions. E. E. Cummings explores the central themes of love and unity with his poem.
The theme of love is popular in many lyric poems and is definitely present in “i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)” by E. E. Cummings. Arguably one of his best-known and anthologized love poems, “i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)” addresses an unknown muse. The speaker uses loving language and calls the object of the poem names of adoration like “my dear,” (line 3) “my darling,” (line 4) “my sweet” (line 6), and “my true” (line 7). These names communicate care and admiration for the speaker's beloved.
The voice of the poem further establishes a connection with the muse in line 7 by asserting, “you are my world.” That simple assertion is indicative of Cummings's style, using metaphor to compare the beloved to the world. This elevates the subject of the poem to a level of importance beyond measure. The muse becomes the speaker's home, sustenance, refuge, and natural habitat. More than being merely an object of affection, the muse is the world. The love the speaker shares with the beloved is complete and encompassing.
E. E. Cummings deals with the theme of unity in “i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)” by manipulating the poem's structure and punctuation. The first stanza is one long run-on sentence, with ideas dripping into one another. Known for his lack of capitalization within his writing and even his name, E. E. Cummings does not capitalize the proper pronoun “i” or any word throughout the poem. This visual display of sameness expresses unity in language and ideas.
Cummings repeats the title of the poem, setting up the refrain in the first stanza. The repetition emphasizes the importance of the joining of hearts. Not only does the speaker carry the heart, but it is “in” (line 1) the speaker's own “heart” (line 2) which acts as a shield and protector for the beloved's heart.
The first stanza is also an entire run-on sentence, showing continuity as the hearts and ideas run together and join. Like the unifying bond the speaker shared with the subject of the poem, the sentences, lines, ideas, and stanzas all run together and connect. The lack of end punctuation within the poem further emphasizes the continuity and togetherness of beings.
What messages about love does the poem, "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)" communicate?
The meaning of the poem "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in" is the speaker's unbreakable bond with the subject of the poem and love as a source of connection.
The poem "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)" is a variation of the traditional 14-line sonnet.
The message of the poem "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)" is that love has the power to unite.
The writer of "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)" is E. E. Cummings.
The poem "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)" is a lyrical love poem.
Who wrote "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)"?
The poem "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)" was written by E. E. Cummings.
When was "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)" published?
The poem "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)" was published in 1952.
What type of poem is "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)"?
The poem "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)" is a lyrical love poem.
What is enjambment?
Enjambment is the straddling over of an idea from one line to the next without the use of end punctuation.
What is the theme of the poem "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)"?
Two central themes of "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)" are love and unity.
Is "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)" a sonnet?
The poem "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)" is a variation of the sonnet form.
What is the message of the poem "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)"?
The message of the poem "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)" is love's ability to unite.
What is slant rhyme?
Slant rhyme, also known as near rhyme or imperfect rhyme, is when words have similar sounds but not identical sounds.
What literary movement does E. E. Cummings belong to?
E. E. Cummings is a modernist poet.
What is apostrophe?
Apostrophe in literature is when the speaker addresses a person or thing that can't respond or is not present.
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