Contrast and Comparison of E.E Cummings\' poems \'humanity i love you\' and \'a man who had fallen\'

Matt Semmler

Through a comparison and contrast of e.e. cummings’ poems - ‘Humanity I Love You’ and ‘A man who had fallen’ show how expression of his ideas is dependent on his art as a poet.

E.e. cummings’ ideas are dependent on his art as a poet. In the two poems, ‘Humanity’ and ‘A man who had fallen’, e.e. cummings develops a picture of mankind as weak and directionless, and of the poet as being the spiritual and compassionate guide for humanity. In both poems, these ideas are expressed through the subject matter, point of view, irony and imagery and sound.

Through the subject matter of ‘Humanity’, e.e. cummings first gives a number of reasons why he ‘loves’ humanity. His reasons include - they will crawl to what they perceive as successful, they are impressed by the appearance of wealth rather than spiritual concerns, they hate being embarrassed by their own behaviour, they are attracted to superficial expressions of feelings to jingoistic sentimentality and patriotism, they can’t use their intelligence to solve problems, they’re too proud to admit their own mistakes, they create confusion and hurt especially in their own homes, they can’t put the pleasure and joy of life and sex at the top of their priorities i.e. They’re too prudish. Finally, the poet provides one single reason why he ‘hates’ humanity - they are strong and brave enough to defy death itself in the creation of something that expresses hope, a poem.

In comparison, In ‘A man who had fallen’, e.e. cummings uses the same basic subject matter as ‘humanity’ in the way that it comments on how mankind is plagued with flaws and weaknesses only by using the Christian parable of the Good Samaritan to describe a modern day scenario. The subject matter of the poem includes - a man lying beside the road as a result of his drunken stupor after a night out on the town drinking, he is an unimportant person with a silly grin on his face, one hand on his chest and the other weakly fidgeting in the dirt that he has fallen in, he is covered in solidified vomit and he appears to be lifeless, all the important citizens pause to look at him but shake their heads in mutual disgust and move on, the only person who stops to help him is the poet, who, like the man, has no way or direction, but will still take him through the unknown for an eternity.

In ‘Humanity’, through the method of theme, e.e. cummings expresses his love for humanity in spite of the foibles and weaknesses that afflict us. The role of the person who gives voice to this is given to the poet. In comparison with ‘A man who had fallen’, cummings is again stating his love and respect for mankind using the theme of the human spirit. The theme is of the human spirit carrying on and the compassion of mankind. As the poet, who is just as lost and directionless as the drunken man, picks him up and carries him through eternity, the poet is saying that mankind is compassionate and has the strength and will to keep on going in the face of the unknown.

Point of view, paradox and irony must also be considered in showing that e.e. cummings’ ideas are dependent on his art.

In respect to point of view, in ‘Humanity’, cummings is commenting on humanity and mankind. He identifies himself with them, and with the use of lower case ‘i’, identifies himself with their weaknesses and the ability to soar to great heights in the face of death. Irony is also used a great deal in this poem, and is one of the major points about the poem. The poem uses irony to help make the meaning more clear. There are three empathetic uses of ‘love’ followed by negative examples, and then the final and only positive example in the poem is presented as a reason for the poet to ‘hate’ humanity. The hate he has for the good points about humanity is understood as meaning that the poet is confounded by the paradox of mankind.

In contrast, the point of view