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if everything happens that can't be done
if everything happens that can't be done
by E.E. Cummings
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Nature

Symbol Analysis

"if everything happens that can't be done" might be about love, but it sure is crammed with nature. Hmm. Maybe those two things have something to do with each other. Again and again, things in this piece are compared to things in nature, which seems like a place where all of experience is vibrant and wonderful. When you dive into this poem, we'd recommend sitting outside, shaded from the brilliant sun by a big old tree. We think the speaker would like that.

  • Lines 11-13: We're not told directly that "buds" means flower buds here, and in fact it might not mean that at all. The word "bud" can refer to anything that is undeveloped, in an early stage of growth. But if "buds" does mean flower buds, then they're being personified, because the speaker is giving them the human ability of knowing. More importantly, these buds know better than books (which are also personified here) and, perhaps most marvelously of all, buds grow, unlike books. It's in nature, these lines seem to point out, that we get to watch the simple miracles of flowers growing. That's nature 1, books 0.
  • Line 19: This line uses metaphors, comparing the world to a leaf, and a tree to just a bough (or, branch). These metaphors take big things in nature, like the whole world and a tree, and compare them to smaller things in nature, like a leaf and a bough. If the whole world is indeed a leaf, this then makes us think that we must be able to learn something about the whole world just from looking at a little leaf.
  • Lines 20-22: These lines, a lot like lines 11-13, establish the superiority of nature over books by comparing the signature act of birds, singing, to the signature act of books, telling how. Birds do their job in a much sweeter way than books do. Nature 2, books 0.
  • Line 26: The word "fly" in this line connects back to the imagery of birds earlier in the stanza.
  • Line 37: The sun is one of the main elements that make nature possible. So it's pretty powerful when the speaker says that "we," probably the speaker and the person he loves, are brighter than the sun. Note that this comparison is an example of hyperbole, or extreme exaggeration.