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if everything happens that can't be done

if everything happens that can't be done


by E.E. Cummings

Stanza 2 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Line 10

one hasn't a why or because or although

  • Here, we get more word play around the concept of "one."
  • Let's break it down. Our concept of "one" in this poem is growing. We know that it's more "something" than anything else, and that it doesn't have a "why," "because," or "although." But why?
  • Maybe that's the wrong question. After all, it seems that "one" is just there, being something. It doesn't need labels.
  • Could this be an example of something that, until this poem, we would have thought couldn't have been done? Food for thought…
  • Did you notice another pattern that's showing itself in this poem? The last word in each stanza is repeated as the first word of the next, like the word "one" in this stanza. It creates a nice swirly effect, huh? See our "Form and Meter" section for more.

Lines 11-13

(and buds know better
than books
don't grow)

  • Those pesky parentheses are at it again. And again, like most of the other lines in the poem, these lines may seem to be pretty nonsensical at first. But never fear. There's an easy way to break them down and put them back together again.
  • First think about the first two lines together: "and buds know better / than books." This fits right in with the parenthesis of the first stanza, that "anything's righter / than books."
  • "Buds" probably refers to flower buds, or perhaps young children (budding youth). Now we start to see how the beauty of nature and youth, at least in this poem, is more important than book learning. Youth and nature know more than books do.
  • Then, let's break down the second part of this parenthesis. Forget the first line, and the first word of the second line, and we've got "books / don't grow." So buds not only know better than books do, but also books, unlike buds, don't grow. Looks like the score is 2-0, buds on top.
  • We might also read these lines as saying something like, "Buds are even better at knowing that books are at not growing." Yep, that sounds about right.

Line 14

one's anything old being everything new

  • Again, the speaker tells us little bit more about the concept of "one." This line fits into the title of "everything happens that can't be done," because it's saying that anything old is now everything new.
  • This is yet another paradox, or contradiction, because something old can't be something new. Or can it? Remember that the impossible just might happen in this poem.
  • We might consider this line metaphorically, too. After all, the line is saying that this "one" thing "is" old things becoming new again. He is comparing the awesomeness of "one" to the awesomeness of everything old becoming new. That isn't necessarily what one is, but it is what one is like.

Lines 15-17

(with a what
around we come who)

  • Wait. What? Surely your head is spinning now.
  • These lines echo lines 6-8, but with a new spin. Same gleeful tone, new confusing idea.
  • "What" and "which" express questioning, and we can't help but think that a lot of questioning must be going on in a world where everything is happening that can't be done.
  • Then we come around to something of an understanding, but not without more questioning, of course. We know who's coming around in these lines: we are. Maybe that's all our speaker's saying, or perhaps there's a deeper play on words going on here. What do you think?
  • One thing we can say for certain about these lines is that they're super fun to read aloud, and they give an even more playful bounce to this already whimsical poem.

Line 18

one's everyanything so

  • Want to learn more about one? Well, in any case, our speaker is going to tell you.
  • Earlier, he told us that it was "anything" old being "everything" new, and now we get that one is "everyanything."
  • No, this is not a real word, and no, this wasn't a typo. "Everyanything" is a wonderful combination – it's everything and anything combined. That covers just about every possibility, right? Your English teacher might be tempted to correct this to "every and any thing" to be grammatically correct, but where's the fun or the rhythm in that?
  • Then there's that tricky "so" at the end of the line. What's that doing there?
  • We use the word "so" in a lot of ways. Sometimes we say "like so" meaning, "like this." Sometimes we use it to mean "therefore." Sometimes it means "very." And sometimes we just use it as an interjection: "So I was walking down the street when… "
  • In this case, we can read "so" in two different ways:
  • (1) "One is very everyanything." Or,
  • (2) "One is everyanything, therefore… "
  • Try not to grow discouraged that it's hard to pin down one meaning for each and every word and line of this poem. Instead, look at this piece as though it's a puzzle with many different solutions, each one just as right as the next.
  • Part of the fun in reading it is investigating all of the different possible meanings for its words and lines. The more solutions you can think of, whether or not we here at Shmoop have thought of them, the better you're doing.

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