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The Role Of Humanism In The Poems Of E.E. Cummings

2102 words - 8 pages

It can be said that poetry is very much like its poet, seeing as they both contain two different sides: one that is seen while taking your very first glance and another that can only be unearthed and understood through the study of its underlying influences. So it is not unusual that in order to gain a complete and comprehensive outlook on a poem, one must first study nonfiction sources to see the motivation and purpose behind each chosen word. E.E. Cumming’s works, a notable World War I era poet of the modernist movement, were heavily affected by the hatred and atrocities of warfare, which is seen in the way that his resentment towards humanity grows within this period, and thusly reflects in the poems he created around this time. One of these poems, entitled “Humanity i love you” can be seen as one such work. However, these influences are perhaps unclear at first, which shall be evidenced by this first cursory analysis of this poem.

Task 1: A Cursory Analysis
“Humanity i love you” makes its first impression with its unconventional use of capitalization, or rather, the distinct lack of, which aids Cummings in his manipulation of emphasis. All words, most recognizably “I”, are in lowercase, as presented in the title of the poem. This is a common fixture of E.E. Cummings’ works, and it has been speculated that such a choice was a mark of humility on Cummings’ part in order to show that the authority of the poet isn’t as important as the words themselves. However, in this case it seems that Cummings has manipulated the continued use of the lowercase “i” in order to bring forth the only word that does happen to be capitalized: Humanity. The noticeable emphasis that this places on the word immediately pulls the word from its surrounding text and links it to the theme. Therefore it can be accurately stated that this poem will provide commentary on human nature.
What gives the largest intimation as to the complete message of Cummings’ poem is the clearly evident satirical tone that Cummings’ often uses when the subject matter of his poem is something that disgusts him. Cummings’ writes,
Humanity i love you/ because you would rather black the boots of/ success than enquire whose soul dangles from his/ watch-chain which would be embarrassing for both/ parties… (Cummings 1-5)
Here, Cummings’ basically, with much added sarcasm, says he loves how humanity would rather shine and maintain a rich aristocrat’s shoes rather than think of the many commoners who are under his beck and call. Such a habit of subjecting a person to the members of the higher class is not an action deserving praise, which outlines the use of satire within this first example Cummings uses. Cummings continues in another stanza with the use of his sardonic speech. “Humanity i love you because/ when you’re hard up you pawn your/ intelligence to buy a drink …” (Cummings 9-11). Such a statement chastises humanity for degrading themselves to drinking and defiling their...

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