Poetry Analysis Notes


Maggie and Milly and Molly and May
by E.E. Cummings
interpreted by Sandy Su

maggie and milly and molly and and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles; and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

Poet: Edward Estlin Cummings was born on October 14, 1894 in Cambridge,
Massachusetts. He was born to Edward Cummings a Unitarian minister, and
Rebecca Hawell Clarke. Ever since he was young, his mother encouraged
him to write, and this proved to be one of his strengths later in his years.
He was known as a painter and poet, and even received his B.A. from Harvard.
During World War I, he volunteered for Norton-Hages Ambulance Corps in France
but got arrested and held in a concentration camp. He was married twice,
but got divorced both times. Cummings is known for his special style of writing
and play with nouns and verbs. The rule for him always seems to be no
capital letters and he is known for many of his free verse writings. After
suffering a stroke, Cummings died at a hospital in North Conway, New Hampshire in
1962. He is remembered for his unique style and technique, and helped
change literary expression in the twentieth century. Some of his famous works
include "Buffalo Bill's", and The Enormous Room.

Vocabulary: Languid - adj.- drooping; weak

Type of poem:
This poem is a lyric poem, and possibly narrative also.

Speaker: The poet

This poem has a message that seems to be for the masses and
not directed at any one person or thing.

Tone: This is a light poem and has a rhythmic up beat to it. The
meaning of the words, however are serious, and he uses many allusions to make the
poem itself seem light, but the meaning is very deep.

This poem is constructed of happy allusions that seem so mask
the true and deeper meaning of the poem. Maggie, Milly, Molly, and May went
to a beach in this poem and each found a different thing. The beach seems to
be representative of the physical, while the sea itself is the deep core.
Since the four girls all found things on the beach, the things were all
different whether good, bad or both. The last two lines of the poem, "for
whatever we lose(like a you or a me)/ it's always ourselves we find in the sea";
seems to say that if the girls, or if anyone had gone deeper and into the
sea, they would have found something greater. To find oneself means to go
beyond all the good the bad and physical, and dig deeper.

Structure of poem: Free verse. This poem is made of six couplets, but
only three of them rhyme. The rhyme pattern is: aa, bc, de, fc, gg, hh- no
real pattern.

Examples of poetic techniques used in the poem:

"maggie and milly and molly and may"
" a shell that sang so sweetly"
"blowing bubbles"

"as small as a world and as large as alone"
"it's always ourselves we find in the sea"
Figurative Language
"milly befriended a stranded star" Personification
"so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and
milly befriended a stranded star"
"which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and
may came home with a smooth round stone"
Run-On Line
The beach/ physical, the Sea/deeper and more emotional

Connection between the poem and the poet's life and/or times: Politically, Cummings was a liberal leftist, and tried to spoke out against many things. This poem after some reflection seems to be able to connect with those feelings of a
restricting government or times.

Most memorable quote from the poem:
"as small as a world and as large as alone."

© Smelli Notes 2001