E E.E. Cummings

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond by E.E. Cummings

‘somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond’ by E.E. Cummings is a five stanza free verse poem that does not conform to any distinct patterns of rhyme. There are a few instances of inclosed rhyme though, or that which happens within a line rather than at the end. A reader can see this with the repetition of words such as “enclose,” “rose” and “close.” While not unified throughout the text, the majority of lines are written in hexameter, meaning they contain six beats per line. 

E.E. Cummings is known for his radical rearrangement of traditional sentence forms and the alteration of grammatical rules. This piece is no different. One is immediately struck by the format of the first line. Cummings often chose, and did so in this case, not to capitalize the self-referencing “I.” This phrase became the title of the poem, making it even more striking and frustrating to critics. 

A reader should also take note of the fact that Cummings does not utilize any final end marks in this work. There are a number of commas, semi-colons, and parenthetical, but no periods. This allows the text to flow like a stream of consciousness narrative. The lines follow one after another without a pause or hesitation. 

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond by E.E. Cummings

 

Summary

‘somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond’ by E.E. Cummings describes the true devotion a speaker has for his fragile listener.

The poem begins with the speaker stating that “you,” the listener of this piece, have a control over him he does not understand. This is not a negative, but something he relishes. He would like to travel somewhere he never has before, and enter into the listener’s eyes. They have the ability to “enclose” him in a way he has never experienced.

Whatever this person asks of him, he does. On their command, he “opens” or “closes.” The speaker is equal parts “Spring” and winter, inspiring flourishing and hibernation. In the final stanzas, he expands on the description of the listener. He relishes in the fragility of their being and how it contrasts with their vast power over him. 

 

Analysis of somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond

Stanza One 

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

In the first stanza of ‘somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond’, the speaker begins by describing an experience he has never had. While he might not have the words to describe exactly what this experience is, he has an idea. It is something “glad,” or that he is pleased to dwell on. Additionally, if he were to embark on this experience, it would take him “beyond” any other he has been through in the past. 

There is no clear destination for the end of this particular journey other than the reference to “your eyes.” The intended listener of this piece has some amount of control over the speaker. He is traveling, physically or emotionally, closer to this person. The feelings of control are emphasized in the next line when he describes the “frail gestures” made by the listener. One should take particular note of the use of the word “frail.” In this instance, it is not meant negatively, but simply as a statement of fact. It also adds to the impact of the entire situation. 

The gestures are “frail,” or without strength, and are still able to “enclose” the speaker. He is completely taken in by the actions of his listener. In the next lines, the speaker adds on another element of this person that helps to control him. It is important to note at this point that the control is not something negative. The speaker is relishing in being put in this situation. 

He is taken in by the things he “cannot touch.” This is an unusual experience for him. It seems as if he is used to having total control of his surroundings and experiences. Now, there is some aspect of his life that is beyond his reach. The listener’s actions are “too near,” or perhaps, too important for him to judge rationally. 

 

Stanza Two

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

In the final phrases of this section, the speaker reveals how the “slightest look” from the listener is enough to “unclose” him. This refers to his own emotional control. He usually keeps himself “closed up” with his own “fingers,” but the listener does away with this quickly. 

The speaker continues to describe the dynamic between himself and his unknown, unnamed listener. He is still speaking on this person’s ability to open him up to the world. The fingers in which he has wrapped himself up so tightly are loosened— they fall away. With this person’s words, actions, or touch, they “open always” the “petal” of the speaker. His layers disappear a bit at a time until there is nothing left but the truth. 

He compares this process to the way “Spring opens / …her first rose.” There is no way to define exactly how it happens. It taps into the mysteries of nature. “Spring” is as skillful as the listener is. 

 

Stanza Three

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;

In an effort to further elucidate what it is like to be under the sway of his listener, the speaker describes the shutting down of his life. The listener is able to direct the speaker’s life quite simply. They can open him up or shut him down with equal ease. If the person decides that their wish is “to close [him]” he will “shut very beautifully.” 

The speaker continues the comparison of his own emotional state to that of a flower in the next lines. His “closing” is equal to that which occurs in a flower during winter. It is not a depressing action though. One should imagine, the speaker states, the “snow carefully everywhere descending…” This is the backdrop on which he closes himself up. The listener is equal parts of winter and spring. 

 

Stanza Four 

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

In the final lines of ‘somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond’, the listener’s fragility makes its way back into the text. It is clearly important to the speaker that the reader understand that this person is fragile, but still has so much control over him. There is nothing in the world, he states, that is “equal” to the “power of your intense fragility.” It is something the speaker finds very attractive and endearing about the listener. 

This person’s nature is so clear to him he is able to describe it texturally. It a vast array of colors, each of which comes from its own country. The listener is fragile, but they are also deeply layered and changeable. They have many different elements of their personality and actions— all of which impact the speaker intensely.

 

Stanza Five 

(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

The last four lines of ‘somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond’ are mostly contained within parenthesis. This choice separates the speaker’s profession of love and adoration to the listener from his own reflection on the process. He is able to express himself differently in these sections. His words are even more open and somewhat clearer.

He states his inability to understand what exactly it is about the listener that impacts him so deeply. The speaker understands it is something that “closes / and opens,” and in turn closes and opens something inside him. But, he is unsure where it comes from. 

He is able to say that “something in [him] understands” that the listener is different. Their eyes are “deeper than all roses.” They are more beautiful and more important than any other. 

The final lines express the deep love and admiration the speaker has for his listener. He returns to addressing this person and says that “nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.” The listener’s minutest quality is of the grandest importance to him. They are gentle and fragile in a way he finds incredibly precious. 

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About
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analysing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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