since feeling is first – e e cummings – analysis

Since feeling is first

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph

and death i think is no parenthesis

e e cummings (1894 – 1962)

S1 – eec did not pay any attention to traditional syntax (he developed his own unique syntactical way of expression) … he is talking about love and feelings and how love is expressed, and if you think of syntax in relation to love – which to me relates to discipline and order – then it becomes an inhibiter of full expression, and in relation to a kiss it will not be a full kiss in all its enormity – scary, because if you are totally uninhibited in your love life you may become the stereotyped fool – love and fool both being four letter words that combine to form a bit of an oxymoron.

S2 – Perhaps everyone becomes a bit of a moron when spring is in the air, not me of course for I have English heritage. eec swears by all the flowers that his best brain gesture stands no match for the flutter of an eyelid which dissolves all reason. Love and flattery always have connection, so too love and laughter.

S3-4 Interestingly, you can’t put death in brackets and life is not a paragraph … eec indicates he is putting his writing to one side for the sake of love … (it is a whole story of many chapters … the question is whether there is a full stop to the last sentence … well of course there is a no full stop as you can see in the above!)

Details of e e cummings on Wikipedia …

NB Syntax – the ordering of and relationship between the words and other structural elements in phrases and sentences. The syntax may be of a whole language, a single phrase or sentence, or of an individual speaker.

May all those love-fools enjoy this day with a laugh!

Sonnet 15 – Elizabeth Barrett Browning – Analysis

Sonnet 15

Accuse me not, beseech thee, that I wear
Too calm and sad a face in front of thine;
For we two look two ways, and cannot shine
With the same sunlight on our brow and hair.
On me thou lookest with no doubting care,
As on a bee shut in a crystalline;
Since sorrow hath shut me safe in love’s divine,
And to spread wing and fly in the outer air
Were most impossible failure, if I strove
To fail so. But I look on thee—on thee—
Beholding, besides love, the end of love,
Hearing oblivion beyond memory;
As one who sits and gazes from above,
Over the rivers to the bitter sea.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 – 1861)

From ‘Sonnets from the Portuguese’, written ca. 1845–1846 and first published in 1850, a collection of 44 love sonnets written after she met her husband Robert Browning. The collection was acclaimed and popular in the poet’s lifetime and it remains so today.

L1-4 … we see life differently – we have different emotions and the poet (EBB) asks to be accepted when seen as calm and sad

L5-7 … you (Robert) look on me (EBB) as viewing locked beauty because of love – as a crystalline bee … it suggests precious jewellery

L8-10 (part – … if I strove to fail so.) … and if I were to strive to fly away you would still see me in that light

L10 (part – But I look on thee …) -14 … but I look on you and think of the end of our love … when I will forget you … without memory … as one who gazes beyond the rivers (the present time of my life) to a bitter sea (a future time) – implies death when all is lost forgotten and no more … our love is a mere diminishing window when compared to the enormity of the never ending procession of time

Details of Elizabeth Barrett Browning on Wikipedia –

The Clod and the Pebble – William Blake – Analysis

The Clod and the Pebble

“Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.”

So sung a little Clod of Clay
Trodden with the cattle’s feet,
But a Pebble of the brook
Warbled out these metres meet:

“Love seeketh only self to please,
To bind another to its delight,
Joys in another’s loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite.”

William Blake

If you want to look at duality in poetry then William Blake will give you plenty of examples. Duality provides contrast and a way of viewing different aspects of the same.
In the above ‘love’ poem the ‘Clod of Clay’ and the ‘Pebble’ are representative of very different aspects of love – the ‘give’ and the ‘take’ that is love – or in the more extreme the ‘Hell’ and the ‘Heaven’.

I think there is a great warning in this poem on the danger of giving oneself too freely and in the process being used by another – ‘trodden with the cattle’s feet’ – the music created by such an image is quite down beat! Not an easy task to ‘build a Heaven in Hell’s despair

In contrast I love the pebble knowing of itself … and with warbled music (like a bird) … responding through the stream of life … and asking others to join in its delight – to move out of their comfort zone – ‘builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite’ … there is warning here too that in the joining of another ‘Heaven’ itself might become corrupted in the process. However the pebble is a pretty strong symbol – a rock able to survive the ravages of time.

Love has never been an easy process … love does both destroy and create.

Rhyming scheme – abab cdec afaf
Rhythm – ^ ^^ ^ ^^ ^ ^ iambic tetrameter
Nice balance – 6 lines of Clay v 6 lines of Pebble

A Dante Poem on Love and Beauty

Love is in the air and Valentine’s Day approaches …

From the ‘Love Poems’ of Dante Alighieri …


“I am a young girl, lovely and a marvel,
And have come here to show to men on earth
Some beauties of the place that gave me birth.

I came from heaven and there I shall return,
Delighting with my light the souls above;
The man who looks on me and does not burn
Will never have the mind to compass love;
For there is nothing fair He failed to give
Who granted Nature the full gift of me
And placed me, ladies, in your company.

There is no star which does not share its light
And power with these eyes; my beauties are
A marvel to the world, for from the height
Of heaven they came down, and from afar;
Knowledge of them cannot be found save where
There lives a man who in himself knows truly
How love makes entrance through another’s beauty.”

These words all men may read upon the face
Of the young angel here revealed, and I
Who gazed on it so fixedly to trace
Her form more truly, now am like to die;
For when I boldly looked her in the eye
I felt the wound which never lets me cease
From weeping, and since then I have no peace.

Dante – the above poem was translated from the Italian by Anthony Mortimer.

Note – * This poem was included in the collection Rhime – essentially a conglomeration of miscellaneous poems written by Dante over the course of his adult life-time.

Looking at the translation, and the line that stirs my thoughts …

How love makes entry through another’s beauty
^ ^ ^ ^^/ ^ ^^ ^^ … we see it is iambic pentameter. How truly the original rhyming flows through is unknown but it appears that Anthony Mortimer has put a lot of thought and poetic skill in producing this translation.

Commenting on each stanza –

S1 – A very strong, and you might say arrogant, statement on the merits of this young girl. But she is saying this as an example of the beauties found in the place of her heavenly birth.

The mind of the reader responds by creating an appropriate image of a beautiful young woman.

S2 – her statement continues … reinforcing her beauty and that she will eventually return to heaven where she delights the souls that live there … and if the man that looks on her does not burn then he knows not love … for she has been given every gift that nature can bestow … she is placed with other ladies (presumably older women and no comparison, highlighting her beauty)

S3 – this is the end of her statement … and it is here that she makes that definitive statement about love in the last line of the stanza … love makes entry through another’s beauty … love is nothing to do with ourselves as such it is how we respond to the beauty that is around us and in recognising that beauty we then have a chance of knowing something of the beauty within heaven

S4 – Dante is saying that everyone can face beauty and know love … note that when he became besotted and tried to trace her form more truly he was wounded without peace … hard to imagine a beauty of such intensity – but then we approach the divine who we can never see with our veiled eyes

… but it might be that he has been distracted from Beatrice  – the ultimate in beauty in his climb through the inferno … for looking at the background to this work …

This poem may well be connected with an incident in Purgatory XXXI (58-60) where Beatrice reproaches Dante for having been led astray by the love of a young girl (pargoletta)

You never should have let your either wing
Flag, for some further blows from some young girl
Or any trumpery, or ephemeral thing.

Reference – Love Poems – Dante Alighieri – Translated by Anthony Mortimer and J.G. Nichols – ALMA Classics (isbn 978-1-84749-345-3)

An Arundel Tomb – Philip Larkin – Analysis


An Arundel Tomb

Side by side, their faces blurred,
The earl and countess lie in stone,
Their proper habits vaguely shown
As jointed armour, stiffened pleat,
And that faint hint of the absurd–
The little dogs under their feet.

The sculpture is of the Earl of Arundel and his second wife Eleanor of Lancaster and it resides in Chichester Cathedral … in art dogs are a sign of fidelity … apparently over the years the sculpture has been vandalised and repaired

Such plainness of the pre-baroque
Hardly involves the eye, until
It meets his left hand gauntlet, still
Clasped empty in the other; and
One sees, with sharp tender shock,
His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.

In all the cathedrals and churches Larkin visited he never saw such tenderness depicted in stone and he was quite moved by the sight … generating this poem.

They would not think to lie so long.
Such faithfulness in effigy
Was just a detail friends could see:
A sculptor’s sweet commissioned grace
Thrown off in helping to prolong
The Latin names around the base.

They have been together for centuries in stone whereas in life they would never lie so close given that marriages were very much a political arrangement … there is a double take too on the word ‘lie’ as there probably would have been a lot of deceit in the arrangement. The Latin names around the base probably ignored by those visiting the cathedral today – but the holding of hands an attraction to the eye.

They would not guess how early in
Their supine stationary voyage
Their air would change to soundless damage,
Turn the old tenantry away;
How soon succeeding eyes begin
To look, not read. Rigidly they

Well, the nature of marriage has changed over the years and those visiting today would view the holding of hands perhaps as a more loving union. Supine = lying on the back without energy.

Persisted, linked, through lengths and breadths
Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light
Each summer thronged the grass. A bright
Litter of birdcalls strewed the same
Bone-riddled ground. And up the paths
The endless altered people came,

I like the view of the outside while the tomb is fixed and oblivious to the changing seasons. Apparently the grounds of Chichester Cathedral are known for bird song.

Washing at their identity.
Now, helpless in the hollow of
An unarmorial age, a trough
Of smoke in slow suspended skeins
Above their scrap of history,
Only an attitude remains:

People today don’t understand the history and context … washing over the sculpture … history becomes a scrap – unarmorial = not decorated with a coat of arms

Time has transfigured them into
Untruth. The stone finality
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.

Philip Larkin

We have the contrast – the truth of love – the reality of love being something different from what this time-frozen stone fixture might suggest … the important things that survive are not so much the physical –but ‘love’ (whatever this means to the reader) … but then the physical may be needed as a catalyst or prompt. It certainly prompted Larkin to think about love – and he was certainly not a ‘love’ poet – but it has been said that he was haunted by such notions although of a melancholic nature.

A YouTube video of Philip Larkin reading this poem

Love’s Arithmetic – Catullus

Love’s Arithemetic

Let’s live and love while yet we may,
My Lesbia: all the things they say,
Those crabbed old gossips, let’s agree,
Aren’t worth a farthing – what care we?
Each night the sun goes down, each morn
Another bright new day is born,
And when we quench our puny light,
Comes endless sleep, eternal night.
So kiss me, Lesbia, I implore,
A thousand times, a hundred more,
Another thousand, with again
A hundred kisses in their train,
And even after these I will
Demand eleven hundred still,
Whereat we’d better cease to tot
And mix together all the lot,
Lest envious eyes should keep the count
And grudge my lips the full amount.

Valerius Catullus born Verona (87bc – 47bc)
Reversed by Peter Hadley
From An anthology of classical verse (Epic to Epigram)

Lesbia – was the literary pseudonym of the great love of Catullus
Lesbos – an island in the Aegean sea.

Wonderful eight syllable rhythm … let’s live and love while yet we may … and count not what others do or say … enjoy, enjoy, enjoy your day!

But beware of love’s attraction … that it does not move from addiction to affliction! … see below on details of his love-life

From Wikipedia … It was probably in Rome that Catullus fell deeply in love with the “Lesbia” of his poems, who is usually identified with Clodia Metelli, a sophisticated woman from the aristocratic house of patrician family Claudii Pulchri, sister of the infamous Publius Clodius Pulcher, and wife to proconsul Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer. In his poems Catullus describes several stages of their relationship: initial euphoria, doubts, separation, and his wrenching feelings of loss. Clodia was a woman with a ravenous sexual appetite; “From the poems one can adduce no less than five lovers in addition to Catullus: Egnatius (poem 37), Gellius (poem 91), Quintius (poem 82), Rufus (poem 77), and Lesbius (poem 79).” There is also some question surrounding her husband’s mysterious death in 59 B.C., some critics believing he was domestically poisoned. Yet, a sensitive and passionate Catullus could not relinquish his flame for Clodia, regardless of her obvious indifference to his desire for a deep and permanent relationship. In his poems, Catullus wavers between devout, sweltering love and bitter, scornful insults that he directs at her blatant infidelity (as demonstrated in poems 11 and 58). His passion for her is unrelenting— yet it is unclear when exactly the couple split up for good. Catullus’s poems about the relationship display striking depth and psychological insight.

Love’s Philosophy – P. B. Shelley

Love’s Philosophy

The fountains mingle with the river,
And the rivers with the ocean;
The winds of heaven mix forever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In another’s being mingle–
Why not I with thine?

See, the mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower could be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea;–
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822)

Here is a love sonnet from a romantic Shelley seeking a kiss … or using his words seeking to mingle in another’s being … very suggestive. Whether it was reciprocated is another matter. But it is more than just a love poem for his  love philosophy underlines some certain basic philosophic tenants in relation to how Shelley viewed the world.

The world is a unity and everything is connected. There is no such thing as a singularity. This is clearly stated in the first eight lines. But more over the connecting force in the way the world has been created is love. All things have come from a divine source and mingle in a natural love with ‘sweet emotion’. I went to a poetry meeting last night and one comment from a reader was ‘every thing in life reduces to emotion’ … and Shelley would have it as sweet emotion … a very positive view of the world and the way it was created and the essence of that creation. It is very much an inclusive view of life – one world. And a beautiful world.

In the last two lines of this section we see a personal plea for Shelley to mingle with some particular person … suggesting that these words were given, or read, to someone special. Another interpretation of ‘I with thine’ is a seeking of a link between Shelley and his environment … we perhaps assume that Shelley feels connected with nature … my view is that he certainly does for he expresses the beauty of the world in his poetry … but he may be seeking a deeper link.

The last six lines explore the close relationships between elements in the universe. This close connectivity is likened to ‘kissing’, moreover he now considers nature in terms of the family relationships of sister-brother … this is how the elements are joined … you may think that this is a little bit poetic in the extreme.

The last two lines say it all … please kiss me … this is what it is all about, for all this natural connectivity has no value unless he is connected likewise.

Perhaps those that have had an intense spiritual experience can equate the experience with a feeling of great love for nature … a greater awareness of the beauty in nature … and on the same basis as that expressed by Shelley.

(I have this vague memory of Prince Charles talking to his plants at one stage in his life … perhaps he had been reading too much Shelley.)

Here is a link to Percy Bysshe Shelley on Wikipedia.