Study Guide

anyone who lived in a pretty how town Death

By Edward Estlin Cummings

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(with up so floating many bells down) (2)

It's awful nice to feel like you're floating in a world of magic bells. But before you know it, you're actually heading downward and these bells are beginning to sound like funeral bells. That's how Cummings gets you. He makes you think that life is all happy and awesome, and then he reminds you of how it'll all eventually come to an end.

sun moon stars rain (8)

Cummings isn't interested in telling us that we'll die and leaving it at that. He wants to remind us that our deaths are all connected to the cycles of nature. Just as day turns to night and the seasons change, people live and die and, in between, they laugh and cry.

said their nevers and slept their dream (20)

When people get to their deathbed, they need to say goodbye to the people they love. Cummings captures this kind of moment in a beautiful way when he says that these people "said their nevers." In other words, they said all the things they would never be able to say again. Then they go gently to sleep and join the big dream of death.

only the snow can begin to explain (22)

Cummings writes as though nature is the only thing that actually understands the cycle of life and death. Poets might like to think that they have a handle on it all, but in the end nature has the final say.

one day anyone died i guess (25)

We've become invested in the life of anyone, but now the narrator tells us that anyone died. The casualness of "i guess" reminds us that death is not something special in Cummings' world. It's a natural part of things, and to say that someone has died is the same thing as saying it's raining out.

busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was (27-28)

The people of anyone's town are busy, so they don't have time to mourn his death very much. They want to get back to their lives. Meanwhile, anyone retreats into the past a little bit at a time. He's dead now and he'll only get deader as more time goes by.

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