Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

except in your

Here's another poem by e. e. cummings.

except in your
honour,
my loveliest,
nothing
may move may rest
-you bring

(out of dark the
earth)a
procession of
wonders
huger than prove
our fears

were hopes:the moon
open
for you and close
will shy
wings of because;
each why

of star(afloat
on not
quite less than all
of time)
gives you skilful
his flame

so is your heart
alert,
of languages
there's none
but well she knows;
and can

perfectly speak
(snowflake
and rainbow mind
and soul
november and
april)

who younger than
begin
are,the worlds move
in your
(and rest, my love)
honour
The poem, intensely pure by Christian standards, is a love poem to woman.  I've color-coded it to help with parsing.  I will not stand by the color-coding; they are just my first glance effort and one who is more skillful than myself would probably do it differently, and better.

The poem starts and ends with a rough parallelism: "except in your honour, my loveliest, nothing may move may rest" and "the worlds move in your (and rest, my love) honour".  I do not know if, or what, significance is attached to the reworking the verses undergo from their place at the start to their place at the end.  But the parallelism binds the poem together and, I believe, sets the theme.  Everything revolves around the woman he loves, so much so, that in his heart, everything serves to honor her, regardless of what it does.  When the Pharisees chide Jesus for letting his disciples hail him as king upon his entry into Jerusalem, Jesus responds to them, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out," (Lk 19:40).  This thought, that all creation proclaims God's praise, is also found in the psalms: "The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork," (Ps 19:1; cf. Ps 97:6; Hab 3:3).

The woman whom the poet praises brings a "procession of wonders" abundantly sufficient ("huger than") to "prove our fears were hopes."  There is something about this woman and the things she evokes that inverts one's whole way of thinking.  She transforms the craven and base into one of the noblest of human intentions: aspiration, hope, confidence.  She draws these wonders out of "dark the earth," out of our darkened, human experience, bound and trapped otherwise by matter, and presumably time and space as a whole.

The "shy wings of because" close because explanations lose their power in her presence.  She transcends mere explanations, as the stars fly higher than any wings can.  The stars ask "why?" because they fill us with wonder and awe.  These why's are "afloat on not quite less than all of time."  The woman poses, or perhaps embodies, eternal questions, mysteries that beggar explanation.  The poet, thematically throughout his poetry, definitely prefers wonder and awe to mere knowledge and facts.  "Each why of star... gives you skilful his flame," fits a common e. e. cummings construction of inverting the order of the modifying adjective and modifying articles or pronouns.  In common English we would have "his skillful flame," but cummings loves to switch "his" and "skillful," or whatever words fill those spots in the construction (above, note "dark the earth").  The woman receives the skillful flames of the stars, as if they were gifts offered in homage to a queen.  This openness to mystery, and the deep wisdom received by the one open to mystery, enables the woman to speak every language.  ("there's none but well she knows") e. e. cummings lists some of the languages that she speaks: "snowflake and rainbow mind and soul november and april."  The rhythms and wonders of nature are the expressions of herself.

The lady is "younger than begin," a phrase I find a bit hard to read.  Is it a way of expressing her eternity, or near eternity?  Is it expressing her non-eternity, since she presumably was not present at the beginning?  Or, is this the wrong track of thinking entirely, I wonder.  Perhaps "begin" is the youngest thing since it is the place where things start off, and so younger than begin is some sort of eternal youthfulness or very youthfulness.  I am not sure.

e. e. cummings was a Catholic.  I do not know about whom he was singing, but the nearly idolatrous song is one that Catholics could almost sing in Church.  Is anyone else thinking of Mary, the Queen of Heaven and Mother of All Nations, whom the scriptures describe as crowned with the stars, clad with the sun, and standing aloft upon the moon (Rev 12:1), and whom all the souls of the just will praise (Lk 1:48), alongside her Son, for all eternity?

1 comment:

lucemichael said...

beautiful poem; very insightful read on it. I would have never picked up on that myself, but I can't read it through again without visualizing Mary.

Thanks Ryan!