e. e. cummings' "since feeling is first" is about feeling (802). This is immediately evident from the title and first line, which emphasize the word "feeling" in several different ways. The stresses on "feel-" and "first," as well as the alliteration between those two words, make explicit their connection and importance, and the repetition of the same line in both title and first line serves to enhance the effect.
The meaning of the first line is clear, but because of cummings' characteristic absence of punctuation and capitalization as well as sentence structure, the next few lines are more ambiguous. The first three lines together could be paraphrased as, "Because feeling comes first, who cares about the rules?" Feeling is first in order of importance, and the rest does not matter. "Who pays attention" is a rhetorical question meaning that no one pays any attention. However, the ambiguousness of sentence structure means that the last two lines of the first stanza, "the syntax of things / will never wholly kiss you," can also be read together. Linked together in such a way, this clause means that structure, such as grammar, is not engaging; it does not seize the imagination or emotions the way feeling does.
This thought is continued in the next stanza, with the repeated word "wholly" linking back to the previous line. Spring is a time of year known for giddy foolishness, and cummings plays off this idea. The use of the word "fool" implies that there is a lack of intelligence, therefore that intelligence is important; however, in the next stanza, the speaker lets go of intellect entirely, declaring, "kisses are a better fa...
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...Even though during the height of life we may be able to do whatever we want, eventually we will have to follow the rules, so we should make the most of it while we still can. Because it uses the threat of death to urge the addressee to hurry up and live life to the fullest, especially through love, e. e. cummings' "since feeling is first" is essentially a carpe diem poem.
cummings, e. e. "since feeling is first." The Norton Anthology of Poetry. Ed. Margaret Ferguson et al. 5th ed., shorter. New York: W. W. Norton, 1997.
Professor's Comments: Very well done indeed. Two thoughts: 1) you might emphasize the paradox involved--even in trying to throw out "syntax," he can't get away from its terms and metaphors; 2) maybe try to get a bit of a smile into your own tone--a touch of wit to match his.
But as a whole, fine work.
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