At the Seaside (V)

e.e. cummings (1894-1962) was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He studied at Harvard University, gaining a BA in 1915 and his MA in 1916, where his studies there introduced him to the poetry of avant-garde writers such as Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound.

In 1917, Cummings published an early selection of poems in the anthology Eight Harvard Poets. In his work, Cummings experimented radically with form, punctuation, spelling, and syntax, abandoning traditional techniques and structures to create an idiosyncratic means of poetic expression. Even readers who seldom read poetry recognize the distinctive shape that a Cummings poem makes on the page: the blizzard of punctuation, the words running together or suddenly breaking part, the type spilling from one line to the next.

The poem “maggie and milly and molly and mae” depicts children at play and uses them as a vehicle to make a universal statement about life. Mimicking the singsong tone and style common to childhood nursery rhymes, the poem presents four children who have gone to the beach to play and describes what each child finds in the process. Each of these objects then becomes symbolic of the child who finds it, suggesting that everyone finds in “the sea” something of themselves.

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

Seaside(V)-Edward-Pothast

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