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E. E. Cummings' "i thank You God for most this amazing"

Poetry became my passion after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class circa 1962.

E. E. Cummings

Introduction and Text of "i thank You God for most this amazing"

Cummings' innovative poetic style has given rise to the myth that the poet was a great social rebel. However, his values remained quite mainstream, and his disposition was much more spiritual than that of the mainstream. Cummings' use of the lower case "i" in the first person pronoun was prompted by a sense of humility; he was more apt to capitalize the other personal pronouns than the ones referring to himself.

Poet E. E. Cummings was born Edward Estlin Cummings on October 14, 1894, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His father, Edward Cummings, was a professor of sociology and political science at Harvard University, but he abandoned the professoriate in 1900 and became an ordained minister of the South Congregational Church, in Boston.

The younger Cummings attended Harvard University and graduated in 1915 with a B.A. in English and classical studies. He also completed his M.A. at Harvard in 1916. At Harvard, Cummings came under the spell of modernism and the avant-garde, including the ultimate modernist Gertrude Stein. But ultimately for Cummings, the only real departure from traditional values was his style, particularly his orthographic alterations. Cummings' use of unusual grammatical structures has given Cummings a reputation for rebelliousness that he does not actually deserve.

Traditionalist

Cummings accepted the basic tenets of his father's religious faith, and even produced poems that are inspired by the transcendentalist philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Cummings' spirituality is best experienced through his sonnet, "i thank You God for most this amazing." This sonnet is clearly an innovative variation of a Shakespearean sonnet. It consists of three quatrains and a couplet with the Elizabethan rime scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.

(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

i thank You God for most this amazing

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of allnothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Cummings reading his "i thank You God for most this amazing"

Commentary

Despite claims to the contrary, E. E. Cummings did not legally change his name to "e. e. cummings"; he remained rather conventional in his values despite his innovative poetry style.

First Quatrain: Addressing the Divine Beloved

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

In the first quatrain, the speaker is thanking God for the beauty of nature, particularly the trees and sky, but also for "for everything / which is natural which is infinite which is yes." The speaker is thanking God for all that is positive.

Second Quatrain: Celebrating Spirit

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

The second quatrain acknowledges the spiritual concept of reincarnation when the speaker declares, "i who have died am alive again today." Then immediately he brings things back to earth by asserting that today is "the sun's birthday," as everyday is, of course. The speaker celebrates "life and love and wings" incorporating spirituality along with nature.

Third Quatrain: A Prayer Sonnet

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of allnothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Remembering that this sonnet is also a prayer, the reader faces a question: how can a human being actually reflect the greatness that is Yours, that is, God's?

The question takes up the entire quatrain as the speaker describes the human as "tasting touching hearing seeing / breathing"—a creature of sense awareness, who cannot perceive God through the senses, but nevertheless, can realize God through the soul.

Couplet: Inner Hearing and Seeing

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

The couplet reveals that the speaker becomes aware of God's presence through his inner senses of hearing and seeing: "(now the ears of my ears awake and / now the eyes of my eyes are opened)." The poet has placed the more ethereal features of the sonnet in parentheses.

E. E. Cummings' signature

Questions & Answers

Question: Why is the poem "I Thank You God For Most This Amazing" said to be a prayer?

Answer: The speaker is thanking God for the beauty of nature, particularly the trees and sky, but also for "for everything / which is natural which is infinite which is yes." The speaker is thanking God for all that is positive.

Question: In E.E. Cumming's "I Thank You God For Most This Amazing," what is the message of the poem?

Answer: It is an expression of gratitude to the Creator for all beautiful things in the world.

Question: The only use of capital letters in this poem is in "God" and "You." What does this show us about the poet's attitude to God?

Answer: The capitalization of "God" and "You" when referring to God likely demonstrates the speaker's respect and reverence for his Divine Creator.

Question: In E.E. Cumming's "I Thank You God for Most This Amazing," what two words suggest a feature that is unique to this poem?

Answer: "most this"--because of the non-traditional word order.

Question: Who is speaking in the poem, "I Thank You God for Most This Amazing" by E.E. Cummings?

Answer: The speaker of this Cummings poem is a spiritually devoted seeker of the Divine Beloved, showing his gratitude for all the wonderful things that that Divine Creator has created.

Question: In E.E. Cumming's "I Thank You God For Most This Amazing," what does the speaker mean he thanks God for everything which is yes?

Answer: The speaker is grateful to the Divine Creator for all that is beautiful and positive in creation. "Yes" means positive as opposed to "no" which is negative.

Question: Why is E.E. Cumming's poem, "I Thank You God For Most This Amazing" said to be a prayer?

Answer: It is a prayer because it addresses God as the Divine Creator of all things expressing the speaker's human heart's gratitude for the blessings that the Divine has bestowed upon him.

Question: Can you name one stylistic feature that is unique to E.E. Cumming's poem, "I Thank You God For Most This Amazing"?

Answer: Non-traditional syntax; as in "for most this amazing."

Question: Do you think E.E. Cummings' has always felt this way about life in his poems?

Answer: It is likely he has always felt this way because of his background, education, and spiritually inspired poetic tendencies.

Question: Why do you say that the second quatrain is "about" reincarnation? Can't it also be read as in line with orthodox Christianity?

Answer: I would like to caution you to read more carefully. Here is my comment on the second quatrain: "The second quatrain acknowledges the spiritual concept of reincarnation when the speaker declares,'i who have died am alive again today.' Then immediately he brings things back to earth by asserting that today is "the sun's birthday," as every day is, of course. The speaker celebrates 'life and love and wings' incorporating spirituality along with nature."

Thus, nowhere did I say that the quatrain is "about" reincarnation. And I certainly do not wrench the concept out of the purview of orthodox Christianity. Your first question misrepresents what I said, and your second question builds a straw man.

Question: Do you think E.E. Cumming's poem "I Thank You God For Most This Amazing" is interesting and why?

Answer: Cummings' spirituality is experienced through this sonnet, "I thank You God for most this amazing." This sonnet is clearly an innovative variation of a Shakespearean sonnet. It consists of three quatrains and a couplet with an Elizabethan rime scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. Cummings' innovative style rendered most of his work fascinating if not always as profound as his prayer-poems.

(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error" at https://owlcation.com/humanities/Rhyme-vs-Rime-An-... )

Question: What does the title of Cummings' "I thank You God for most this amazing" reveal?

Answer: The title is the first line of the poem in Cummings' "I thank You God for most this amazing," which reveals that the sonnet does not have a separate title.

Question: What kind of verse and form are used in E.E. Cumming's "i thank You God for most this amazing"?

Answer: E. E. Cummings' "i thank You God for most this amazing" is a sonnet, an innovative variation on a Shakespearean sonnet, consisting of three quatrains and a couplet with the Elizabethan rime scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.

(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error" at https://owlcation.com/humanities/Rhyme-vs-Rime-An-... .)

Question: When did e.e. cummings change his name?

Answer: Despite claims to the contrary, E. E. Cummings did not change his name to "e. e. cummings" by law; he actually remained rather conventional in his values despite his innovative poetry style.

Question: Why does the poem "I Thank You God for Most This Amazing" have a lower case "i" with the pronoun "I" but upper case "You"?

Answer: The upper case "You" demonstrates the speaker's respect and reverence for his Divine Creator, or God, Whom the speaker is addressing. The lower case "i" shows the same respect, demonstrating that the speaker considers himself lower than the Most High.

Question: How does Cummings’ unorthodox use of the lowercase letters add to the meaning of the poem?

Answer: Cummings' use of the lower case "i" in the first person pronoun was prompted by a sense of humility; he was more apt to capitalize on the other personal pronouns than the ones referring to himself.

Question: What does it mean by by "merely human being"?

Answer: The correctly quoted phrase is "human merely being." To understand the meaning, the phrase must be placed in context, which includes the lines, "how should tasting touching hearing seeing / breathing any—lifted from the no / of allnothing—human merely being / doubt unimaginable You?".

The speaker is averring that as a human being, seemingly springing from "allnothing" but with senses and who breathes, he entertains no doubts of the existence of God, even though God is "unimaginable" to the mere human mind.

Question: What is the theme of the poem?

Answer: The speaker is thanking God for all that is positive in creation.

Question: What does the title, "i thank You God for most this amazing," mean?

Answer: It means that the speaker is grateful to God for all of his blessings.

Question: Why did E.E Cummings write the poem "i thank you God for most this amazing?

Answer: Unless a poet has stated why he wrote a poem, no one can divine the reason from the poem itself. One can speak only to what the poem says and how it is executed. The following offers a brief commentary on what the poem says and how it is executed:

In the first quatrain, the speaker is thanking God for the beauty of nature, particularly the trees and sky, but also for "for everything / which is natural which is infinite which is yes." The speaker is thanking God for all that is positive. The second quatrain acknowledges the spiritual concept of reincarnation when the speaker declares, "i who have died am alive again today." Then immediately he brings things back to earth by asserting that today is "the sun's birthday," as every day is, of course. The speaker celebrates "life and love and wings" incorporating spirituality along with nature.

Remembering that this sonnet is also a prayer, the reader faces a question: how can a human being actually reflect the greatness that is Yours, that is, God’s? The question takes up the entire quatrain as the speaker describes the human as "tasting touching hearing seeing/breathing"—a creature of sense awareness, who cannot perceive God through the senses, but nevertheless, can realize God through the soul. The couplet reveals that the speaker becomes aware of God's presence through his inner senses of hearing and seeing: "(now the ears of my ears awake and / now the eyes of my eyes are opened)." The poet has placed the more ethereal features of the sonnet in parentheses.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes