Study Guide

anyone who lived in a pretty how town Stanza 6

By Edward Estlin Cummings

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Stanza 6

Lines 21-24

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

  • All right, so now we're back to the cycle of the stars and rain and sun and moon. No matter what the people in this poem are doing, Cummings wants to remind us that nature's cycle just keeps going. 
  • In line 22, our speaker tells us that "only the snow can begin to explain" and we're forced to wonder what this means. Well if you look at the rest of this poem, what does snow probably symbolize? Earlier in the poem, Cummings has used the seasons as a way of talking about the passage of human life. If spring is a person's youth, then summer is their physical prime. And if a person's "autumn years" are their old age, then winter must be… gulp.
  • Yup, snow here forms a close connection with the language of sleep and death that Cummings has been using.
  • And so now we have to wonder what death and sleep are able to explain to us, since it must be something important. 
  • Apparently, death explains to us "how children are apt to forget to remember/ with up so floating many bells down." At this point, Cummings is mashing together so many metaphors that it's hard to keep track of their meaning. 
  • Earlier, Cummings' speaker mentioned that children's "forgetting" is connected to the way that they lose sympathy for strangers as they grow up into adults. At that point, they only really care about their families and their own children. The phrase "up so floating many bells down" pulls us right back to the beginning of this poem as though the speaker is now going to explain what he means by this line. But now the line seems even more confusing than before. The idea of children going "up" still seems to refer to them growing into adults, which is still connected to them forgetting things like sympathy for strangers. 
  • But the idea of bells moving down still feels vague. At the start of the poem, it felt like the bells marked a celebration and, with all the talk about marriage and weddings, that seems appropriate. But why are the bells associated with "down"? Is there another occasion other than a wedding where you would hear bells…?
  • Ah—maybe a funeral?

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