You are tired (I think)

E.E. Cummings

E.E. Cummings

Edward Estlin Cummings, better known as E.E. Cummings, was an American poet.

He is remembered today for his pioneering new style of writing.

You are tired (I think’) by E.E. Cummings explores someone who is ‘tired’ of ‘living and doing’, bored of the same day in day out ways. Cummings offers to help them out of this state, and find somewhere peaceful to sleep.

You are tired (I think) by E.E cummings

Summary of You are tired (I think)

E.E. Cummings’ ‘You are tired (I think)‘ is a non-invasive offering of help to those who need it. Cummings writes for those who are going through a hard time, and are sick of how the world has become. Everything is a ‘puzzle’, and one must constantly keep going seemingly forever. To the people that are tired of this life, Cummings lends a little helping hand, with a poem that is of great comfort, while also being in line with Cummings’ classic style.

Structure of You are tired (I think)

You are tired (I think)‘ is split into five stanzas, measuring 4, 3, 7, and 7,9 lines each. The first two stanzas change in length, relating to Cummings’ idea of the ‘puzzle’ of life and how things can be difficult. Yet, by the end of the poem, when Cummings has offered his helping hand, the poetic structure becomes more stable. This structural change implies that the ’perfect place of sleep’ that Cummings is offering will bring back a sense of familiarity, stability, and safety to the reader’s life, being a comforting in their troubling times.

Poetic Techniques

Cummings is famous for his spatial, syntactical, and grammatical manipulation of form. Punctuation is often used very deliberately throughout all his poetry, often not following their perceived rules. The more poetry you read of E.E. Cummings, the more you realize he uses different punctuation marks for different situations, almost always never being the actual intention the mark carries. Here is no different, with parenthesis being used to give a sense of closeness and comfort to the poem. On lines that could be perceived as harsh or abrupt, Cummings follows with this parenthesis, almost whispering and returning the poem to a comforting level.

Another technique that Cummings uses in ‘You are tired (I think)‘ is repetition. Phrases such as ‘(I think)’ and ‘so am I’ echo throughout the poet, allowing ‘You are tired (I think)‘ to take on an almost dreamlike quality, the rhythm of the poem slowly circling due to the focus on repeated words and sounds. This furthers the sense of comfort that the poem exudes, Cummings ensuring that the reader feels safe and supported while reading.

Analysis of You are tired (I think)

Stanza One

You are tired,
(I think)
Of the always puzzle of living and doing;
And so am I.

The poem begins by cutting straight to the core theme and ideas, ‘You are tired’, Cummings suggesting that the reader may have had enough of current circumstances in their lives. Although he is pointing out something he believes to be true, as to not offend or come off as standoffish, Cummings follows this with the second line encased in brackets. The subtle touch of ‘(I think)’ insinuates passivity and a gentler way of going about the discussion. Cummings understands that the reader may not be feeling great, so he attempts to help by being as non-intrusive as possible.

He defines the struggles of life, using the metaphor of an ‘always puzzle’ to reflect the complexities of daily ‘living and doing’. The double gerund tense found in ‘living’ and ‘doing’ extends the phrase, connecting with the idea that the person reading ‘You are tired (I think)‘ may be sick of doing the same thing over and over, the innate passing of time suggested by this tense furthering Cummings’ argument.

Cummings then states that he can relate to the reader’s frustration, ‘And so am I.’, firmly finishing the first stanza on a note of relation and support. Cummings understands the difficulty that the reader may be going through, and reaches out a helping hand.

Stanza Two

Come with me, then,
And we’ll leave it far and far away —
(Only you and I, understand!)

Again, Cummings takes what could be seen as an invasive or overly direct phrase and uses punctuation and slight changes of grammar to soften the statements. Although ‘Come with me’, seems harsh due to the use of the imperative command ‘come’, when continued by ‘,then,’ with the double encasing of caesura which slows the meter, the phrase actually comes more of a question. It is almost as if Cummings is saying, ‘Come with me’, but only if you want to.

Now ‘You’ and ‘I’ is substituted for the collective ‘we’, Cummings taking on the role of supporter and coupling the reader and writing under the umbrella pronoun.

He offers to take the reader ‘far and far away’, the double repetition of ‘far’, connected by ‘and’ giving the phrase a suggestion of great length. This is compounded by the double hyphen on the end of the line, the enforced pause rhythmically mirroring the spatial distance that Cummings has summoned.

Cummings’ use of parenthesis to make lines feel less invasive is again seen in this stanza, ‘Only you and I, understand!)’. Cummings evokes a sense of intimacy and privacy, as if only the reader is allowed to take the journey with him.

Stanza Three

You have played,
So am I.

Cummings’ ‘broke the toys you were fondest of’ can be seen as commenting on when someone is upset and they lash out at those who are trying to help them. The ‘toys’ are the people that have been hurt by the outburst, those which are ‘fondest’ to you, but also those closest and therefore easiest to take out anger or sadness on. Cummings is commenting on the possibility of the ramifications of being ‘tired’, what that can do to a person and their mood.

The triple repetition of ‘tired’ further enforces the consuming sense of sleep here, Cummings sees the frustration and lack of energy and wants to comfort this. Again, he connects himself to the reader, ‘So am I’, trying to support and relate in order to make them feel less alone after their outburst.

Stanza Four

But I come with a dream in my eyes tonight,
And knock with a rose at the hopeless gate of your heart —
And, if you like,
The perfect places of Sleep.

The fourth stanza arrives with a promise that Cummings will take anyone who is ‘tired’ to the ‘perfect places of Sleep’. Although ’Sleep’ could be seen as the state of sleeping, it is perhaps more interesting, especially when considering that Cummings capitalized ‘Sleep’, to associate it with qualities of rest and rejuvenation. Cummings is allowing the reader to recover, take time to themselves, and find peace. The alliteration of ‘p’ across ‘perfect places’ gives a ringing sense of comfort on this final line, the sounds leading naturally to the final word of ‘Sleep’.

Stanza Five

Ah, come with me!
I’ll blow you that wonderful bubble, the moon,
Which shall keep (I think) your little heart
While the moon comes out of the sea.

In this stanza, Cummings returns to using the ‘I’ pronoun frequently. ‘I’ll blow’, ‘I’ll sing’, ‘I will attempt’ all encompass a sense that Cummings is trying to do as much as he can for the reader. He uses beautiful images of nature, ‘flower’, ‘portables stars’, ‘the moon comes out to sea’, to compound a sense of peace. He is creating an atmosphere in which the reader can finally rest, retreating to the world of ‘sleep’.

Jack Limebear Poetry Expert
Jack is undertaking a degree in World Literature and joined the Poem Analysis team in 2019. Poetry is the intersection of his greatest passions, languages and literature, with his focus on translation bridging the gap.

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