Edward Estlin Cummings (1894-1962), referred to, as E.E.Cummings was an American poet, writer, and painter. Best known for his poetry and his unconventional use of grammar and punctuation, or lack of, his poem “A pretty a day” shows just how he was a master of ambiguity as even the title of the poem does not give up its meaning easily, and the ﬁrst thing to notice about the pretty day poem is its appearance. Like Denny Bradbury’s poem entitled “there and then”, from her new collection “De-versify” also written in the same lowercase as is familiar to E.E.Cummng’s style.
She also uses no punctuation and the shape of A Pretty Day poem is such that the ﬁrst stanza mirrors the third and sixth, the second mirrors the ﬁfth and the fourth stands on its own:
Analysis: A Pretty Day by E.E.Cummings
“mist hides rising sun people lost has day begun
birds chirrup long song
fields beckon where crops must grow
come till wave arms scare black crow
back bent over no pain
face away from driving rain
raise face sun again…”
In “A pretty a day”, the ﬁrst stanza mirrors the third and the second mirrors the fourth and the only punctuation in evidence is the punctuation marks just before the last word in each of the stanzas, which changes from stanza to stanza. A comma in the ﬁrst, a semi-colon in the second, a colon in the third and a full stop in the ﬁrst – all of which points to a deliberate “misuse” of punctuation on Cummings’ part.
But rather than just trying to create a poem with a pretty pattern, A Pretty Day poem is actually about womankind and their sexual natures and preferences. By using brackets in his stanzas, Cummings looks to overload each stanza, therefore making the meaning of the poem harder to grasp. The ﬁrst stanza is about the transitory nature of a woman’s beauty and how, although it quickly fades there is always more on the way:
“a prey a day
(and every fades)
is here and away
(but born are maids
to ﬂower an hour
in all, all)
In his second stanza he refers to the woman – as a ﬂower – being cut down; in other words, the seduction of a woman-taking place, yet in the third stanza an element of violence is brought in when he talks of how “they tremble and cower”. Perhaps insinuating the violence that can take place in a sexual situation and the fear that induces:
“..o yes to ﬂower
Until so blithe
a doer a wooer
some limber and lithe
some very ﬁne mower
a tall; tall
Some jerry so very
(and Nellie and fan)
some handsomest harry
(and sally and nan
they tremble and cower
so pale: pale)
Denny Bradbury, in her poem “Lothario/Lotharia” also looks at the seedier side of romance. Here the woman breaks the heart of her older man, only to go on and then do the same to someone else and someone else again, in a repetitive cycle caused by having her own heartbreak by the betrayal of her ﬁrst love:
“…She’s now on to pastures new
This lifelong habit is part of Prue
Lothario will feel the rap
Pick up the tab and take the crap
She will walk carefree and ﬂighty
And break another old heart nightly
Another man will fall beside
The road she treads, it’s very wide
In fact it needs to be like that
With bodies strewn so sad a fact
They all want more than she can give
Her ﬁrst was just who made her live
But he the rotten scoundrel did
The dirty with her best friend Syd…”
In Cummings’ ﬁnal stanza of “A pretty a day”, he compares the sexual preferences of women; one who embraces her sexuality, another who learns to do so and one who turns to religion instead. The ﬁnal description he gives is of a woman seen merely as a doll- a sexual object for a man to enjoy:
“.. for Betty was born
to never say nay
but lucy could learn
and lily could pray
and fewer were shyer
than doll. doll”
A Pretty Day EE Cummings poem appears simple in its rhyming words and singsong nature, but within it lies a more complicated meaning that the reader needs to ﬁnd for themselves that is how women cope with their beauty and sexuality.
A Pretty Day by E.E.Cummings Tone
In “A pretty a day,” E. E. Cummings chooses not to capitalize any letters. All of the names are left uncapitalized, as well as each of the first letters of each line. This is consistent throughout the entire poem. E. E. Cummings wrote often about sex in his early poems, so it is assumed that its meaning is related to it.
The title is “a pretty a day” and refers to a pretty woman a day. This is also the first line of the poem A Pretty Day, in the first stanza, which proves it is important. The line, “but born are maids to flower an hour,” displayed that there are enough pretty women to last a lifetime. Cummings also refers to women as flowers, as seen more clearly in the second stanza. Cummings calls the mower a tall mower. By calling the mower tall, he is giving power to the mower, as being tall is associated with power.
During the third stanza, he lists the names of two men and four women. He intentionally pairs each man with two women. This is to show that a man will sleep with multiple women and is perceived as normal, but unusual for a woman to do the same.
The final stanza represents how women will react to losing their virginity. There are the ones who never say no. There are ones who can learn to accept it easily, the ones who have a slim chance of accepting it, and finally, those who will never accept it. Cummings uses personification for the flower, as he uses them to represent women. Cummings also uses personification through the mower, which actually represents a man who steals a woman’s virginity, along with her innocence.
Cummings applies alliteration to his poem by ending three of the four stanzas with an “all” sound. He also repeats the word immediately after saying it, “doll: doll,” “tall: tall,” and “all: all,” are examples of this. Cummings continues with his history of writing poems that have a sexual meaning that is difficult to perceive without going in depth into the poem A Pretty Day.
Many of Cummings’ poems depicts a typographically exuberant style, with words and parts of words, along with punctuation symbols scattered across the page. Cummings’ poems are not only satirical as he addresses social issues in his poems and repeatedly celebrates the season of rebirth, love, and sex. The poem “A pretty a day” also deals with the sexual tensions and thus led to a poem, which dealt with unconventional matters.