Saturday, March 20, 2010

Anyone Lived

Spring at last.  We are all dust (and to dust we will return), but it's a very good thing that the vernal equinox breaks through the inescapable Lenten ethos of human frailty and contemplation of death -- Not only Christ's, but also our own.

Here is a beautiful poem about the cycles of life by e.e. cummings, "anyone lived in a pretty how town":

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain


GretchenJoanna said...

I had never read that before, and it makes me want to save the lines in my mind for appropriate moments--like just about every day.

Sally Thomas said...

That takes me right back to ninth grade, and not in a bad way. e.e. cummings was the first poet I read for myself, not for school, and like a lot of people (at probably just that age), I was captivated by all the disjunctiveness which makes his voice seem so fresh, especially when you've never seen anything like that before in your life.

By the way, I'm having a totally random little blog-carnivalette on the theme of What I Learned This Week by Opening One Book. You and any readers here are warmly invited to participate -- you can either knock out a post about something you've read this week or pull up an old one that speaks to the theme, and use the little linky gizmo here -- -- to post your link.

I love my verification word: chlyc. It must mean something.

Enbrethiliel said...


It feels like a song in a language I'm just learning to speak. I love how it is as elusive as it is beautiful.

PS--My own verification word is "cones." How prosaic! =P

Pentimento said...

Sally, I also read this poem for the first time as a child. I asked my father to explain it to me, and I remember very well the way that he did, with tenderness and delight.

Enbrethiliel, I agree that the poem is very songlike -- if you read it out loud, you'll notice that it uses a kind of Brahmsian hemiola, alternating between duple and triple meter in the same stanza (okay, maybe I shouldn't use Brahms as the reference point for EVERYTHING, but it's tempting!).

Pentimento said...

I took the Sally Thomas challenge -- well, not the What I Learned one, though I hope to do that later -- but the searching-for-musical-settings-of-favorite-poems one. There appear to be several settings of this poem. Here's one (not very tasty execution, but what can you do):

Here is an interesting one that uses extended tonality and vocal techniques:

And there are others . . .

Otepoti said...

Sally, Mr Google is your friend. Chlyc is the abbreviation for "Chelsea Yacht Club" (Australia), so there's a journey you can take in your imagination.

My verification word is "nodes", a clear pointer to the connectivity of the internet.

I love that poem, P. Can you remember what your father said about it?

Pentimento said...

I was about nine. At first the language and punctuation were a kind of foil for me: what did it mean, "anyone lived in a pretty how town"? My father explained that anyone and noone were characters (not indefinite pronouns, nor offhanded references to people too insignificant to name), and that the poem was about their lives, and represented the lives, loves, and deaths of all people -- whose lives were fleeting against the backdrop of eternity. He said it was a beautiful poem.