Study Guide

anyone who lived in a pretty how town Stanza 5

By Edward Estlin Cummings

Stanza 5

Lines 17-20

Someones married their everyones
Laughing their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

  • Hey, it looks like on top of "anyone" there are quite a few "someones" living in the pretty how town. And it sounds like these someones got married to their "everyones." Well… that makes sense (as much sense as anything in this poem). After all, what do people say when they get married? They say things like "you're my everything"—or in this case "my everyone." And after these people are married, they start "Laughing their cryings" and "did their dance." That also makes sense because people usually dance at weddings. Plus, people tend to both laugh and cry at weddings because they're really happy occasions. But you could also take this all a step further and say that these married folks did the dance of life together, which always involves a lot of crying and laughing because there's a lot of happiness and joy in life. 
  • But what about lines 19 and 20? Well, when you read "(sleep wake hope and then)," you can see it's pretty consistent with the general stuff our speaker has said in this poem. He's talking about general people going through the general parts of life, which includes happiness and sadness and ups and downs. Seasons pass and people grow from children to adults. And while all this is happening, people get married and they go through emotional cycles. 
  • In this case, the speaker is saying that people fall asleep together and then wake up with hopes for a new day.
  • But the speaker cuts himself off after the word "then." And if you have a dark mind you know what's coming.
  • The one thing Cummings hasn't mentioned yet is that everyone eventually dies, too…
  • Line 20 looks like it's going to anticipate this idea of death. The same people who fall in love, get married, and live their lives together eventually get to a point where they "said their nevers they slept their dream." The momentum of Cummings' poem is already leading us toward the idea of death. So when people say their "nevers," they might be talking about things they'll never be able to do again. This could be something like playing soccer or even walking on their own two feet. Maybe they're in wheelchairs when they're older. In either case, the idea of "sleep" comes closer and closer to the idea of death. And that's not too much of a stretch, because people often refer to death as "the big sleep."