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Selected Sonnets


Edward Estlin Cummings


From XLI Poems (1925)

Sonnet I if learned darkness from our searched world should wrest the rare unwisdom of thy eyes, and if thy hands flowers of silence curled upon a wish,to rapture should surprise my soul slowly which on thy beauty dreams (proud through the cold perfect night whisperless to mark,how that asleep whitely she seems whose lips the whole of life almost do guess) if god should send the morning;and before my doubting window leaves softly to stir, of thoughtful trees whom night hath pondered oer and frailties of dimension to occur about us and birds known,scarcely to sing (heart,could we bear the marvel of this thing?)

From W [ViVa] (1931)

LXVIII but if a living dance upon dead minds why,it is love;but at the earliest spear of sun perfectly should disappear moons utmost magic,or stones speak or one name control more incredible splendor than our merely universe,loves also there: and being here imprisoned,tortured here love everywhere exploding maims and blinds (but surely does not forget,perish,sleep cannot be photographed,measured;disdains the trivial labelling of punctual brains... Who wields a poem huger than the grave? from only Whom shall time no refuge keep though all the weird worlds must be opened? )Love

From No Thanks (1935)

LXV if nights mostness(and whom did merely day close) opens if more than silence silent are more flowering than stars whitely births of mind if air is throbbing prayers whom kneeling eyes (until perfectly their imperfect gaze climbs this steep fragrance of eternity) world by than worlds immenser world will pray so(unlove disappearing)only your less than guessed more than beauty begins the most not imagined life adventuring who would feel if springs least breathing should cause a colour and i do not know him (and while behind deaths death whenless voices sing everywhere your selves himself recognize)

From 50 Poems (1940)

L what freedoms not some unders mere above but breathing yes which fear will never no? measureless our pure living complete love whose doom is beauty and its fate to grow shall hate confound the wise? doubt blind the brave? does mask wear face?have singings gone to say? here youngest selves yet younger selves conceive heres musics music and the day of day are worlds collapsing?any was a glove but im and you are actual either hand is when for sale?forever is to give and on forevers very now we stand nor a first rose explodes but shall increase whole truthful infinite immediate us

From 1 x 1 [One Times One] (1944)

XVI ones not half two. Its two are halves of one: which halves reintegrating,shall occur no death and any quantity;but than all numerable mosts the actual more minds ignorant of stern miraculous this every truthbeware of heartless them (given the scalpel,they dissect a kiss; or,sold the reason,they undream a dream) one is the song which fiends and angels sing: all murdering lies by mortals told make two. Let liars wilt,repaying life theyre loaned; we(by a gift called dying born)must grow deep in dark least ourselves remembering love only rides his year. All lose,whole find

XXXIV nothing false and possible is love (whos imagined,therefore limitless) loves to giving as to keepings give; as yes is to if,love is to yes musts a schoolroom in the month of may: lifes the deathboard where all now turns when (loves a universe beyond obey or command,reality or un-) proudly depths above whys first because (faiths last doubt and humbly heights below) kneeling,wetrue loverspray that us will ourselves continue to outgrow all whose mosts if you have known and ive only we our least begin to guess

XXXVI true lovers in each happening of their hearts live longer than all which and every who; despite what fear denies,what hope asserts, what falsest both disprove by proving true (all doubts,all certainties,as villains strive and heroes through the mere minds poor pretend grim comics of duratiomonly love immortally occurs beyond the mind) such a forever is loves any now and her each here is such an everywhere, even more true would truest lovers grow if out of midnight dropped more suns than are (yes;and if time should ask into his was all shall,their eyes would never miss a yes)

LII life is more true than reason will deceive (more secret or than madness did reveal) deeper is life than lose:higher than have but beauty is more each than livings all multiplied with infinity sans if the mightiest meditations of mankind cancelled are by one merely opening leaf (beyond whose nearness there is no beyond) or does some littler bird than eyes can learn look up to silence and completely sing? futures are obsolete;pasts are unborn (here less than nothings more than everything) death,as men call him,ends what they call men but beauty is more now than dyings when

From XAIPE (1950)

V swim so now million many worlds in each least less than particle of perfect dark how should a loudness called mankind unteach whole infinite the who of lifes life(hark what silence)? Worlds? o no:im certain theyre (look again)flowers. Dont worlds open and worlds close? Worlds do,but differently;or as if worlds wanted us to understand theyd never close(and open)if that fool called everyone(or you or i)were wise. You mean worlds may have better luck,some day? Or worse!poor worlds;i mean theyre possible but lifting flowers more all stars than eyes only are quite what worlds merely might be

XX when serpents bargain for the right to squirm and the sun strikes to gain a living wage when thorns regard their roses with alarm and rainbows are insured against old age when every thrush may sing no new moon in if all screech-owls have not okayed his voice and any wave signs on the dotted line or else an ocean is compelled to close when the oak begs permission of the birch to make an acornvalleys accuse their mountains of having altitudeand march denounces april as a saboteur then well believe in that incredible unanimal mankind(and not until)

LI who were so dark of heart they might not speak, a little innocence will make them sing; teach them to see who could not learn to look from the reality of all nothing will actually lift a luminous whole; turn sheer despairing to most perfect gay, nowhere to here,never to beautiful: a little innocence creates a day. And something thought or done or wished without a little innocence,although it were as red as terror and as green as fate, greyly shall fail and dully disappear but the proud power of himself death immense is not so as a little innocence

LXV 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 suns birthday;this is the birth day of life and of love and wingsrand of the gay great happening inimitably earth) how should tasting touching hearing seeing breathing anylifted from the no of all nothinghuman merely being doubt unimaginable You? (now the ears of my ears awake and now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

From 95 Poems (1958)

III now air is air and thing is thing:no bliss of heavenly earth beguiles our spirits, whose miraculously disenchanted eyes live the magnificent honesty of space. Mountains are mountains now;skies now are skies and such a sharpening freedom lifts our blood as if whole supreme this complete doubtless universe wed(and we alone had)made yes;or as if our souls,awakened from summers green trance,would not adventure soon a deeper magic:that white sleep wherein all human curiosity well spend (gladly,as lovers must)immortal and the courage to receive times mightiest dream

II in times a noble mercy of proportion with generosities beyond believing (though flesh and blood accuse him of coercion or mind and soul convict him of deceiving) whose ways are neither reasoned nor unreasoned, his wisdom cancels conflict and agreement saharas have their centuries;ten thousand of which are smaller than a roses moment theres time for laughing and theres time for crying for hoping for despair for peace for longing a time for growing and a time for dying: a night for silence and a day for singing but more than all(as all your more than eyes tell me)there is a time for timelessness

LXIX over us if(as what was dusk becomes darkness)innumerably singular strictly immeasurable nowhere flames its farthest silence nearer than each our heartbeatbelieve that love(and only love) comprehends huger easily beyonds than timelessly alive all glories weve agreed with nothing deeper than our minds to call the stars. And(darling)never fear: love,when such marvels vanish,will include there by arriving magically here an everywhere which youve and ive agreed and weve(with one last more than kiss)to call most the amazing miracle of all

LXXIII lets,from some loud unworlds most rightful wrong climbing,my love(till mountains speak the truth) enter a cloverish silence of thrushsong (and more than every miracles to breathe) wounded us will becauseless ultimate earth accept and primeval whyless sky; healing our by immeasurable night spirits and with illimitable day (shrived of that nonexistence millions call life,you and i may reverently share the blessed eachness of all beautiful selves wholly which and innocently are) seemings enough for slaves of space and time ours is the now and here of freedom. Come

LXXVI these from my mothers greatgrandmothers rosebush white roses are probably the least probable roses of her improbable world and without any doubt of impossible ours Gods heaven perhaps comprises poems(my mothers greatgrandmother surely would know) of purest poem and glories of sheerest glory a little more always less believably so than(how should even omnipotent He feel sorry while these were blossoming)roses which really are dreams of roses and who i asked my love could begin to imagine quite such eagerly innocent whoms of merciful sweetness except Himself? noone unless its a smiling she told me someone(and smiled) who holds Himself as the little white rose of a child

LXXVIII all nearness pauses,while a star can grow all distance breathes a final dream of bells; perfectly outlined against afterglow are all amazing the and peaceful hills (not where not here but neithers blue most both) and history immeasurably is wealthier by a single sweet days death: as not imagined secrecies comprise goldenly huge whole the upfloating moon. Times a strange fellow; more he gives than takes (and he takes all)nor any marvel finds quite disappearance but some keener makes losing,gaining love! if a world ends more than all worlds begin to(see?)begin

XCI unloves the heavenless hell and homeless home of knowledgeable shadows(quick to seize each nothing which all soulless wraiths proclaim substance;all heartless spectres,happiness) lovers alone wear sunlight. The whole truth not hid by matter;not by mind revealed (more than all dying life,all living death) and never which has been or will be told sings onlyand all lovers are the song. Here(only here)is freedom:always here no then of winter equals now of spring; but aprils day transcends novembers year (eternity being so sans until twice i have lived forever in a smile)

XCII i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)i am never without it(anywhere i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling) i fear no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true) and its you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you here is the deepest secret nobody knows (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide) and this is the wonder thats keeping the stars apart i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

From 73 Poems (1963)

XXXII all which isnt singing is mere talking and all talkings talking to oneself (whether that oneself be sought or seeking master or disciple sheep or wolf) gush to it as deity or devil toss in sobs and reasons threats and smiles name it cruel fair or blessed evil it is you(n i)nobody else drive dumb mankind dizzy with haranguing you are deafened every mothers son all is merely talk which isnt singing and all talkings to oneself alone but the very song of(as mountains feel and lovers)singing is silence

XXXIX white guardians of the universe of sleep safely may by imperishable your glory escorted through infinite countries be my darling(open the very secret of hope to her eyes,not any longer blinded with a world;and let her hearts each whisper wear all never guessed unknowable most joy) faithfully blossoming beyond to breathe suns of the night,bring this beautiful wanderer home to a dream called time:and give herself into the mercy of that star, if out of climbing whom begins to spill such golden blood as makes his moon alive sing more will wonderfully birds than are

XLV what time is it?it is by every star a different time,and each most falsely true; or so subhuman superminds declare nor all their times encompass me and you: when are we never,but forever now (hosts of eternity; not guests of seem) believe me,dear,clocks have enough to do without confusing timelessness and time. Time cannot children,poets,lovers tell measure imagine,mystery,a kiss not though mankind would rather know than feel; mistrusting utterly that timelessness whose absence would make your whole life and my (and infinite our)merely to undie

LXXIII all worlds have halfsight,seeing either with lifes eye(which is if things seem spirits)or (if spirits in the guise of things appear) deaths:any world must always half perceive. Only whose vision can create the whole (being forever born a foolishwise proudhumble citizen of ecstasies more steep than climb can time with all his years) hes free into the beauty of the truth; and strolls the axis of the universe love. Each believing world denies,whereas your lover(looking through both life and death) tunelessly celebrates the merciful wonder no world deny may or believe