E.E. Cummings "next to of course god america i" is a poem about patriotism and the war. The poem starts off with the speaker being someone that is a patriot and feels strongly about America. As the poem progresses it takes a different approach becoming very sarcastic. In this sarcasm the writer shows that we are ignoring the negative aspects of the war. Therefore bringing to our attention that patriotism can manipulate people into doing things they usually wouldn't.
The speaker at the beginning tells the reader his love for America after God and lastly himself in the phrase "next to of course god america i". Most of the poem is in quotation marks, probably because it was from a public speech. This unknown speaker could well have been a politician or a soldier showing his patriotism and religious belief. He portrays this by reciting and putting together lines from American patriotic songs such as "My Country Tis of Thee" and the "Star Spangled Banner". Despite starting off by showing his love for America at first, he then suddenly changes direction.
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For the most part, the poem focuses on his love for America despite the attitude change. His sarcastic tone and boredom begins immediately on line 2 with saying "love you land of the pilgrims' and so forth oh". When the speaker says "and so forth oh" the reader can see the way he really feels about America and patriotism. The words "country 'tis of centuries come and go" further emphasizes his lack of interest and saracasm. The actual words "come and go" mean that things don't change; therefore America will never change and will always have the same problems.
The speaker then emphasizes the mixture of cultures in America and how diverse the people are because of the different languages. He even includes the handicapped with the lines "we should worry in every language even deafanddumb". Even those who are "deaf and dumb" love and are willing to do anything for America without question. The next line of the poem uses metaphor "thy sons acclaim you glorious name by gorry by jingo by gee by gosh by gum" it shows the innocence of the soldiers with "thy sons" and so the speaker shows a sort of frustration when replacing explicit words with "by gory by jingo by gee by gosh by gum". The tone is set from there on from a slight sarcasm to more serious and almost showing anger.
To make the sarcasm of the speaker anymore clearer he begins to exaggerate. With just the word "beaut-iful" broken down the reader sees that beauty can be ugly. The speaker mentions "heroic happy dead" meaning that "sons" mentioned before are the young soldiers that went to war and died. To the patriot they're honorable heroes but for the speaker what can be more beautiful than soldiers running to their death "rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter" a form of simile showing the bravery of the soldiers. Patriotism can sometimes lead one to do such things for their country, including dying. The author questions the way patriotism is interpreted.
To add more meaning to the poem, the writer ends the "speech" with a question mark. His last words saying "shall the voice of liberty be mute?" which is showing a double meaning. It means that the soldiers who fought at war are now dead but had no say in what they did. They weren't allowed to think or decide for themselves and to know whether or not this war was right. The last part of the poem "He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass water" is the only part of the poem with punctuation and holds together the thirteen line quote before it. By drinking the water in front of his audience, the speaker is washing away what he had just said. It makes the reader question the poem and therefore actions speak louder than words.
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The element of the poem is mostly tone because it depicts sarcasm and even anger largely in part because of the fact that some people would go as far as to die for patriotism. Â The entire poem was written within quotation marks and had absolutely no punctuation which made it seem like a fast speech. Also there is symbolism and metaphors such as "thy sons" which is the innocence of the soldiers, "roaring slaughter" the war, and "voice of liberty" the patriot. This poem is a satirical sonnet with a rhyme of ABABCDCDEFGFEG and thirteen lines. The last line is of him drinking a glass of water, which doesn't seem to connect with the rest of the poem and instead creates a distraction.
Thus the poem by E.E. Cummings "next to of course america i" has a lot of meaning. The title shows faith, patriotism, and self-importance. The writer/ speaker loved America but did not love her war. E.E. Cummings himself has seen the horrors of what a war can do. He was held falsely at a concentration camp for 3 months on suspicion of espionage and undesirable activities. He is very straightforward with his poem about how foolish people can be but still glorifies America.
Edward Estlin Cummings also known as E.E. Cummings was born October 14, 1894 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was an American poet, author, painter, essayist and playwright. E.E. Cummings studied at Harvard and got his Master's degree in English and Classical Studies. He worked in France in the ambulance corp, which later didn't seem like such a great idea when he was arrested and sent to a concentration camp in Normandy on suspicion of espionage and undesirable activities. When Cummings returned to the United States he was drafted into the army and served the 12th division. In 1926 Cummings father died in a car accident, which impacted his life and so he began to write more poetry and paid homage to his father's memory.
E.E. Cummings married three times and divorced twice, it is unsure about his 3rd romance if they were ever legally married. He wrote approximately 29,000 poems and many of his them are sonnets and his poetry was often about love and nature. Some of his poems were satire like the poem "next to of course america god i". He died in New Hampshire in September 1962 his age was 67 years old. His cause of death was stroke.
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"E. E. Cummings." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 10 Feb. 2011.
"E. E. Cummings Biography - Life, Family, Children, Story, Death, Wife, Mother, Book, Old,
Information, Born." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Web. 10 Feb. 2011.
"On "next to of Course God America I"" Welcome to English Â« Department of English, College
of LAS, University of Illinois. Web. 10 Feb. 2011.
E.E. Cummings (1894-1962)
"next to of course god america i" (1926)
"next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims' and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn's early my
country 'tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?"
He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water
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