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Somewhere I Have Never Travelled

An analysis of one of my favorite poems from e e cummings.

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
e e cummings

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

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 skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose

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;

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

(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

Source: Viva by E. E. Cummings (a collection of poems first published in 1931)



This is probably my favorite poem ever! It’s just so intense and romantic! I first encountered it in my college literature class, back in 1991. As an introduction to discussing the poem, my professor played us this song from “Beauty and the Beast”. My heart melted as I got lost in Vincent’s voice!. While listening to the song in class, I tried to hold back tears. I glanced over at my friend and saw that she was crying! I felt better knowing I wasn’t the only sentimental one!


Analysis of the poem:

{somewhere I have never traveled, gladly beyond any experience}
Cummings starts out by saying he’s gone to a place he’s never been before and he’s happy.

{your eyes have their silence}
Here we see that he uses metaphors and allegories in the poem. We get a hint that this “somewhere” he “has never travelled” is not an actual place but more of a state of being. He’s captivated by her gaze (“your eyes”) which takes him to this quiet, peaceful place where everything else seems to vanish.

{in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me, or which I cannot touch because they are too near}
The phrase “frail gestures” gives us a clue that he is talking to a woman. Now “frail” might be construed as negative but it’s actually a compliment, indicating that the woman is tender and delicate. Here we start to understand that the poem is a love story. Her gaze and delicate gestures are so powerful that he feels “enclosed” by them. Her effect on him is so deep within him – it’s at his very core – that it’s “too near to touch”.

{your slightest look easily will unclose me though I have closed myself as fingers}
He is saying he has guarded himself from love. Maybe he has been hurt before. But he freely lets his defenses down for her, baring himself completely with just the “slightest look”.

{you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens, (touching skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose}
He compares himself to a rose and she to nature. Just as a rose bud blooms in the spring, so does the woman have the power to open him up and breathe life into his soul.

{or if your wish be to close me, I and my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly}
Even though he willingly opens himself up to her, he will just as easily and readily draw himself away from her, if she so wishes.

{as when the heart of this flower imagines the snow carefully everywhere descending}
Again, he compares himself to a rose, now facing its imminent death in the winter – a death that is not tragic but beautiful since the flower will bloom again in the spring. He describes her power over his life and his death – which, like the rose’s and if she so chooses, will not be a tragedy but a glorious celebration just the same as life.

{nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals the power of your intense fragility}
He points out that her feminine ways are so powerful that they go beyond what we know and understand – they transcend the physical world.

{whose texture compels me with the color of its countries}
He compares her traits and characteristics to countries – countries in the woman’s ethereal world, and he is enthralled by them.

{rendering death and forever with each breathing}
Here, he re-emphasizes her power over his life and his 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}

He can’t quite tell why she has so much power over him, although deep inside him, he understands – and that is enough for him.

{nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands}
So far in the poem, Cummings has been comparing the woman to nature but in this last line, he goes as far as saying that she is more powerful than nature. He is describing the rain as having small hands because a raindrop can go through even the minutest of opening in the soil to get to the seed which it enables to grow and open up. And he is saying that the woman has a much deeper effect than that of rain. (This is actually my favorite line in the poem. So romantic!)



Cummings first published this poem in 1931 when he was married to his second wife, Anne Barton. We may conjecture that he wrote this poem for her. His first marriage, to Elaine Orr, began as a long affair while Elaine was still married to one of Cummings’s friends. They were only married for two months when Elaine left him for another man, taking their 4-year old daughter with her. The court gave Cummings custody of their daughter for three months in each year but Elaine didn’t acknowledge this. He didn’t see his daughter until 22 years later. Hence he wrote “I have closed myself as fingers.” Unfortunately, his second marriage did not last long either. Cummings and Barton separated only after three years. (Posted September 28, 2010)




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