The author, e.e. cummings, is a well-known poet who tied elements of modernism and imagism together within his poems. He often follows traditional structures such as sonnets, but writes in sentences that are not written in the traditional manner of grammatical combinations. His writing often seems disjointed because of his lack of syntax, and many have no type of punctuation. However, this does not hinder the meaning and emotionality of his poetry.
This poem was written for his second wife, Annie Barton. He is explaining his feelings towards her, and the power that she has over him. It is notable that he is writing this to his second wife, indicating that his first wife lacked the ability to reach him that his second wife had.
This poem is a free verse that is structured in quatrains. The first quatrain has a set amount of syllables in each line, but the remaining quatrains show no continuation of this pattern. In the same way, the final quatrain appears to show a rhyme scheme, but the rhyme scheme is not present before then. The author also uses his manipulation of the syntax to ensure that certain words are emphasized in each statement; in doing this, he often places line-breaks in the midst of clauses.
somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
These lines introduce us to his subject. The author is explaining that the relationship between himself and subject has introduced feelings that he has never encountered before; he indicates that he is excited by this change in emotion. He indicates that this state is brought on by the sight of her. These lines lead into a glowing description of his subject. It is assumed that she is a woman by the use of "frail", which is far from the derogatory term of today. Instead, it indicates that she is delicate and fine rather than weak. He creates a floral description of her; alongside her delicacy, he emphasizes that she can "enclose" him. He also explains that the feelings are within his heart rather than his mind, as his inability to touch them for being too near is caused by the closeness and security with which he holds these feelings to himself.
The second stanza continues the floral metaphor. He begins by likening himself to a flower, and indicates that he will "unclose" at her "slightest look." A flower closes as a defensive method; thus, the author is indicating that she is able to break down the emotional walls he has created with just a look. He continues on, stating:
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose
Again, the author sees himself as a flower; however, she has created this side of him. She is the reason that he opens up, thus making her a personification of Spring. He gives her credit for creating him in this manner, and also indicates that she is the essential starting point of his life. In this way, he credits her for changing him and breathing new life into him.
or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
This stanza is the author explaining the extent of the power his subject holds over him. He explains that if she does not wish him to feel this way, he can distance himself and resurrect the old emotional walls. He likens it to the coming of winter, which brings the death of the most delicate flowers; in the same way, he indicates that this openness would die, and implies that it may not happen again for any other person.
The fourth stanza has the author again returning to the description of his subject. He describes her again as having "intense fragility", or this feminine beauty and delicacy that causes him to lose his personal strength in front of her. He explains that she has different areas and elements (or "countries") to her fragility, and yet he finds each one singularly beautiful. He ends this stanza again by repeating her ability to control life and death.
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands
This final stanza concludes the author’s explanation of his feelings for this woman. He openly admits that he does not know why she has so much power over him, but that he understands and is happy that she does. He also admits that she is more powerful than nature (though he has been comparing her to nature throughout this poem). The line "the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses" indicates that he feels the nature metaphor is not strong enough or expressive enough to convey all that she is to him. Her "small hands" are a reference to the fact that she found the tiniest opening in his emotional barriers, and was able to reach through and touch him in a way that no one else could.
Throughout this poem, the author comes back to the idea of his emotional barriers being negated by the women. He explains that he "uncloses" for her, and also gives her credit for reaching through a small opening to cause him to do this. He also returns to her beauty repeatedly, explaining that she is more beautiful than flowers, and with the slightest look has control over him, even unto death.
The author is writing to a woman. He explains that she has control over him that no one else has. She has the ability to make him open up emotionally even though he had built up emotional walls in the past. He is glad that she has pushed him to this point, and realizes that she has this power over him. He also explains that he does not know how she does this, but enjoys that she does, and repeatedly ruminates on her beauty. In the end, he gives her credit for the changes in his life.