Interpreting i thank You God for most this amazing by e. e. cummings

Let’s look at the meaning of this famous poem by e. e. cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing

i thank you God for this most amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirit 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 seeing hearing
breathing any—gifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

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

     ~ by e .e. cummings

Commentary

This is a poem praising God and reveling in the beauty of the world He created. It is not, however, solemn and pious. Rather it is fresh, playful and full of energy.

One of the first things you probably noticed about the poem is the ‘incorrect’ grammar:

  • the lower case ”i’ is used as a first person pronoun 
  • there are no spaces after the punctuation marks
  • the adjective green is given the adverbial suffix -ly
  • instead of something more logical like a ‘true dream of a blue sky’, we get ‘blue true dream of sky’ (and how can truth be blue?)
  • there are often no punctuation marks or conjunctions between the phrases
  • the second birthday is broken into two words (and how can a sun have a birthday?)
  • there are no of commas in the list of adjectives preceding earth
  • the verb happening is used as an adjective
  • the adverb-like ‘illimitably’ takes the place of the ‘correct’ limitless

And these are just a few of the examples that can be found in the poem. This rearranging and reinventing of grammar is a hallmark of the e. e. cummings’ style, but it is important to realize that these changes and odd forms serve purposes. Using the lowercase i, for example, shows the insignificance of individuals when compared with God. The lack of space after the punctuation marks makes one want to read over them without stopping for a long pause. This rhythmic effect is further heightened by putting the punctuation marks in the middle of the lines. Similarly the end of each line tends to flow directly into the beginning of the next (e.g. ‘most amazing/day’), which is a technique known as enjambment. Thus, when reading, one will tend to have shorter (if any) pauses after individual lines. The lack of a comma or conjunction after infinite also encourages one to read faster and with fewer pauses. This breathless, fast-paced rhythm also has a purpose; it shows the feeling of excitement and joy that the poet is trying to express.

The poem also features expressions than can have double meanings. In the second stanza the line ‘i who have died am alive again today‘ hints that the poet has regained a faith which he had lost. It also calls to mind the resurrection of Christ. In the next line, the words ‘sun’s birthday’ when spoken aloud sound the same as Son’s birthday (i.e. Jesus Christ’s birth), which can show how God and nature are inseparable. In the third stanza, the placement of the adverb ‘merely’ between human and being (rather than ‘mere human being’) can also have a double meaning. We are merely humans and we are merely being (i.e. we are just existing temporarily).

Thus, you can see that the poet isn’t trying to be clever by using strange words. He is trying to express his ideas in an original way and his choices have purpose and meaning.

The couplet at the end is an affirmation that narrator is now fully ready to accept God and bear witness to His glory.

The Structure

The use of language is so original that you may not have noticed that the poem’s structure is based on that of the traditional English sonnet. The poem is 14 lines long, with the first 12 divided into three 4-line stanzas (i.e., quatrains) followed by a rhyming couplet that sums up the main theme of the poem. The length of the poem’s lines are generally very close to the 10-syllable line-length of English sonnets. You can also notice the regular rhyming scheme ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, though some of the rhymes are not exact (e.g. trees/yes, no/You, awake and/opened).

Your Interpretation

How do you feel about the poem? How would you interpret its meaning?

~ by longzijun


Interpretations of Poems


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