if everything happens that can't be done
by E.E. Cummings
We hear a lot about this whole "one" thing in this poem, but we never get an explanation of what it actually is. It's up to us to define "one," but to be fair, the speaker does give us some hints, which we've outlined below. Our best guess is that this "one" is the same thing as the "we." Perhaps this oneness could be the way the world feels to the speaker when he's deeply in love. But that's Shmoop's guess. What's yours?
- Line 9: In this line, we think of one as a "thing" rather than a number, and it's the most "something" thing of all. While we're not quite sure what being the most "something" thing of all means, we figure that this ambiguity is deliberate. Oneness is mysterious.
- Line 10: Now that we have the less-than-illuminating idea that "one" is the most "something" thing of all, one becomes even more confusing. It doesn't, like many ideas or things, have a why, or a because, or an although. Apparently, there's no need to elaborate on one, even though, ironically, that's exactly what this poem is doing.
- Line 14: Finally, we get a little bit of concrete information on "one," though it's still pretty ambiguous. "One" is a thing that happens when anything old becomes everything new. This doesn't really seem possible to us, but then we remember that everything that can't be done is happening in this poem.
- Line 18: Well, gee thanks, speaker. As if you haven't gotten us confused enough about one, now you have to go and make up words about it? But while "everyanything" might seem imposing, it's also just a combination of everything and anything, which is what the speaker is describing "one" as. Open your mind to comprehend everything and anything, and you'll get "one." Sweet.
- Line 19: This line connects to line 18 because of the word "so." It's because one is "everyanything" that the magical metaphorical transformation of the world into a leaf and a tree into a bough, or branch, can happen. So everything big can suddenly become little, because everything is one.
- Line 23: Just like the world and the leaves and the trees can be one thing, here can be far, and your can be my. Get it? Got it? Good.
- Line 28: Though "one" isn't mentioned here, we start to get the feeling that all of the oneness is inspired by the love between these two people.
- Line 36: "We" is a form in which more than one person can speak about himself or herself with only one word, so another form of oneness is calling to the speaker.
- Line 45: This line plays with the sound of "one" in "wonderful," and ends the poem with the idea of oneness. Don't forget that one times one equals one, a rare property for a number to have, which makes the oneness even more magical, infinite, and awesome.