Study Guide

anyone who lived in a pretty how town Stanza 9

By Edward Estlin Cummings

Stanza 9

Lines 33-36

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

  • Well, it looks like the women and men from the pretty how town are back for one final appearance. Cummings uses this opportunity to compare these people to the bell symbolism he's been using throughout the poem. The bells so far have symbolized weddings and funerals; now, by saying "dong and ding," he seems to make a full circle by saying that the bells symbolize both men and women and the beginning and end of life. 
  • Line 34 just mentions the four seasons again. This fits nicely with the sort of circular time that Cummings has created in this poem. He takes one more time to remind us that people are born and people die. And in between, they fall in love, get married, and sometimes have children. 
  • Wait, where are we getting children from all this? Well, in line 35, Cummings mentions how the women and men "reaped their sowing." And if you remember back to line 7, you'll remember how we saw Cummings draw a connection between sowing seeds and raising children. The fact that these men and women "went their came" suggests that they spent their lives coming and going. But again, Cummings finds an original way of saying this by mixing up his grammar and saying something like "went their came" instead of "came and went."
  • The poem's final line repeats the phrase: "sun moon stars rain." With this last thought, Cummings pull the lens of his poem away from the pretty how town and up into the sky. Now we're in the realm of nature and its endless cycles. Cummings always returns to this kind of imagery to remind us that people are just like plants or any other living organisms. We're born, we live, and we die. The sad thing about all this is that people spend their whole lives being "busy" and raising their kids to all be alike.
  • In a sense, Cummings seems to suck all the meaning out of human life. But in another way, he injects meaning by showing just how deeply connected we are to the cycles of nature. People who live in a pretty little town might spend their lives getting married and raising normal kids and not caring about strangers. But the thing they never seem to remember is that they're part of the natural world and they'll all die sooner or later. In that sense, Cummings really makes us think more deeply about the meaning of our lives and how that relates to everyday life in a pretty town. 
  • So to wrap things up, we have to ask one more time, "What about the how?" Why does Cummings talk about a pretty how town? Well, if you think about it, this whole poem is about the "how" of life. It's about how life unfolds in a pretty town and how it always comes to an end. And it's thinking about this "how" that makes us wonder about the kind of life that "anyone" could have. In that sense, Cummings' poem is talking about everyone by talking about "anyone."