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Anyone Lived In A Pretty How Town

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Anyone lived in a pretty how town

by E. E. Cummings

Biography of E. E. Cummings

Edward Estlin Cummings was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1894. He received his B.A. in 1915 and his M.A. in 1916, both from Harvard. During the First World War, Cummings worked as an ambulance driver in France, but he was interned in a prison camp by the French authorities (an experience recounted in his novel, The Enormous Room) for his outspoken anti-war convictions. After the war, he settled into a life divided between houses in rural Connecticut and Greenwich Village, with frequent visits to Paris.

In his work, Cummings experimented radically with form, punctuation, spelling and syntax, abandoning traditional techniques and structures to create a new, highly idiosyncratic means of poetic expression. Later in his career, he was often criticized for settling into his signature style and not pressing his work towards further evolution. Nevertheless, he attained great popularity, especially among young readers, for the simplicity of his language, his playful mode and his attention to subjects such as war and sex. At the time of his death in 1962, he was the second most widely read poet in the United States, after Robert Frost.

Anyone lived in a pretty how town

by E. E. Cummings

anyone lived in a pretty how town

(with up so floating many bells down)

spring summer autumn winter

he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men (both little and small)

cared for anyone not at all

they sowed their isn't they reaped their same

sun moon stars rain

children guessed (but only a few

and down they forgot as up they grew

autumn winter spring summer)

that no one

loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf

she laughed his joy she cried his grief

bird by snow and stir by still

anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones

laughed their cryings and did their dance

(sleep wake hope and then) they

said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon

(and only the snow can begin to explain

how children are apt to forget to remember

with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess

(and no one

stooped to kiss his face)

busy folk buried them side by side

little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep

and more by more they dream their sleep

no one

and anyone earth by april

wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men (both dong and ding)

summer autumn winter spring

reaped their sowing and went their came

sun moon stars rain

Author's intend or purpose

In this poem, Cummings is telling a children's story, about children and grown-ups and about growing-up, in the deceptively simple-complex language of childhood. The poem is a criticism of blindly following social conventions, as well as society's intolerance of nonconformists. Cummings shows us how society is not willing to acknowledge differences. He asks us to question traditions, and to understand them for their true intent. He is challenging anyone, meaning any one of us, to push the boundaries of our known space so that we may achieve our dreams.

Historical Period

E. E. Cummings's experimentation with form and language places him among the most innovative of twentieth-century poets. His style eludes specific association with any one modern line. Poets as Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore and Robert Graves applauded Cummins works. However, he remained peripheral to contemporary poetic movements. He was one of the earliest modern poets to introduce typographical eccentricities into writing. He painstakingly measured his dazzling linguistic art, controlling sound--pacing, syllable stress, juncture and sight. The intricate spatial patterning led Marianne Moore to describe his poems as "a kind of verbal topiary-work." The strong visual character of Cummings's writing owes much to his parallel development as a painter. Indeed, his dismemberment of syntax derived from the advances in contemporary European

Author's style

In this poem, Cummings cumulates different kinds and levels of rhythm in order to suggest the complexity of superimposed sensuous and mental impressions. The most striking pattern is obviously the revolution of the seasons, which is indicated by the rotating list of their names. With each of the abstract terms the poet associates a natural phenomenon characterizing the particular season on the sensuous level of human experience so that one may stand emblematically for the other: sun -summer; moon -autumn; stars - winter; rain - spring.

Cummings' most important structuring devices in this poem are refrains and repeated grammatical patterns. Two of the refrains are strings of four nouns, the first series referring to the seasons ("spring summer autumn winter," line 3, then those same words in a different order in lines 11 and 34); and the second series referring to more specific natural phenomena. All of these refrains are related to the sky ("sun moon stars rain" in lines 8 and 36, and a variant order of these nouns


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