Study Guide

my father moved through dooms of love Quotes

  • Death

    so naked for immortal work
    his shoulders marched against the dark (43-44)

    Here we get the idea that the speaker believes in some kind of afterlife, or at least that his father does, because he describes his father moving towards his "immortal work." This definitely seems to get across the idea that there's something to be done after we die. What's interesting is that, in the next line, the speaker calls death "the dark." That doesn't sound much like a pleasant afterlife to us. In fact, it reminds us much more of atheistic philosophies that say there's nothing after we die. Which idea of what happens after we die do you think the poem is trying to get across?

    then let men kill which cannot share,
    let blood and flesh be mud and mire, (53-54)

    These lines summon the specter of war and violence into the poem. It makes us imagine bloody bodies piling up in the muck. (Thanks for planting that image in our heads, E.E.) In the context of the poem, though, these images seem to represent the violent world the speaker's father is leaving behind as he heads into death. So, despite the graphic imagery, we wonder if this is showing death as a good thing, a final reward that takes us to a better place.

    maggoty minus and dumb death
    all we inherit,all bequeath (63-64)

    We get some pretty dark death imagery here, with "maggoty minus" summoning the idea of rotting corpses and the hole that's left in people's lives after someone has passed on, and "dumb death" bringing to mind the eternal silence that death brings. The line also reminds us that we're all doomed to die. Yay. We inherited our mortality from our parents and we'll pass it on to our kids. It's just part of being human. What's up, E.E.? Is there a silver lining?

    because my Father lived his soul (67)

    Oh, here's the silver lining. We figured there'd be one with Cummings on the case. This final line of the poem presents a cool contrast to all this death talk. Though his father is dead, the speaker claims that he totally rocked it out when he was alive. He "lived his soul," meaning that he made the most of who he was and what he had to give. This sentiment is a thing you hear at a lot of funerals: "He lived a good life." Here, though, Cummings manages to avoid the cliché with inventive wording.

  • Philosophical Viewpoints: Individualism

    my father moved through dooms of love
    through sames of am through haves of give, (1-2)

    We're going to zero in on the "sames of am" part of this quote, because it sure seems like a way of talking about conformity to us. See how Cummings turns the "to be" verb "am" into a noun? It's like he's saying the "am" is what we each are. Get it? So, when the speaker talks about his father moving through "sames of am," he's talking about his dad dealing with a world where a lot of people are all alike. Cummings pulls this same trick with a couple other "to be" verbs as well in this poem.

    drove sleeping selves to swarm their fates (11)

    Here, the speaker seems to be saying that his father helped people wake up to their personal potential. You could interpret the idea of "sleeping selves" as the individual potential that the speaker's father helped people find. It's interesting that he uses the word "fates," though. Usually, when the idea of fate comes into the picture it takes away the power of the individual to make personal choices. What do you think? Can we truly be empowered individuals if all our actions are predetermined?

    than he to foolish and to wise
    offered immeasurable is (39-40)

    Looks like one of these mutant "to be" verb-nouns strikes again. Like the "am" in line 2, "is" becomes an embodiment of the self. It gets super-awesome this time—immeasurably so, in fact. Also, just like in line 11, the speaker is saying that his father helped people find their individual spirit. So, you could say this line kind of blends the ideas from the previous two quotes in this section.

    to differ a disease of same,
    conform the pinnacle of am (59-60)

    A couple things from earlier in the poem boomerang back at us here to sum up this theme. One, we've got the word "same" again like with the "sames of am" from line 2. It looks like it again is being used to talk about conformity and definitely not in a nice way. It's compared to a disease. (Gross. Where can we get vaccinated?) We also notice that the word "am" comes back. This time the "to be" verb-noun is called a pinnacle, which gets across the idea of the awesome power of individualism that's constantly threatened by the icky disease of conformity.

  • Man and the Natural World

    for he could feel the mountains grow. (6)

    With this quote, the speaker makes it seem like his dad is totally in touch with nature. Being able to "feel the mountains grow" is pretty impressive to us. We're guessing that the speaker probably doesn't mean this literally, though. Could it be that the speaker means that his father could see the big picture?

    Lifting the valleys of the sea (17)

    Man, not only can the speaker's father "feel the mountains grow," he can take the lowest parts of the sea and turn them into mountains. We're even more impressed than before. In this case, it seems like the speaker is using this nature imagery to express the way his father was able to lift the spirits of those around him.

    praising a forehead called the moon (19)

    Now the nature imagery in the poem moves from the earth to outer space. The father is shown praising the moon. What is he? Some kind of moon worshiping pagan? A werewolf? Well, the idea of being in touch with nature and even finding God in the natural world is very Transcendental. Cummings was sometimes thought of as writing in this tradition, started by dudes like Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman. Cummings's own father is sometimes described a Transcendental Christian minister, so it makes a lot of sense that this sort of language would pop up here.

    a heart of star by him could steer (22)

    The speaker takes us even further into outer space with all this talk about stars, as he references a time when sailors had to be totally in tune with the night sky to get where they were going. It's interesting that the speaker draws on a time when people were absolutely dependent on these out-of-this-world wonders to do what they had to do on Earth.

    conceiving mind of sun will stand, (26)

    Okay, now we're back in our same solar system. Phew, we were getting homesick. Here, the speaker uses one of the most important natural forces of all—the sun—to represent his father's explosively brilliant mind. As in many of Cummings's poems, "my father moved through dooms of love" doesn't present human beings at odds with nature; it shows nature as representing all the things we are. So, you can say that ultimately the poem is an expression of our unity with the natural forces of our world and beyond.

  • Principles

    and should some why completely weep
    my father's fingers brought her sleep: (13-14)

    Wow, what a guy. Whenever some "why" is crying, the speaker's father is there to comfort her. By calling a person a "why," the speaker could be saying that she's someone with a lot of big unanswerable questions (which can definitely make you feel kind of down sometimes). So, perhaps a big part of the way the speaker's father comforted people was by helping them deal with nagging questions like, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" and "Why do we exist?"

    a heart of star by him could steer
    and pure so now and now so yes (22-23)

    Here, pure starlight is used to represent the purity of a human heart. The speaker seems to be saying that his father was extra pure, because people with star-hearts could steer by him. (We're not sure we'd want people with big burning star hearts coming at us. It'd just be freaky.) What's up with all this "now" and "yes" stuff, though? Could it mean that the father really lived in the moment? What do you think?

    no hungry man but wished him food;
    no cripple wouldn't creep one mile
    uphill to only see him smile. (29-32)

    You know a guy is nice when some dude who's starving wants to give him his cheeseburger or whatever. And even guys who couldn't walk would crawl to see him grin a little. Wow, the speaker is almost making his father sound a bit like Jesus or something. We're guessing we've got a little case of hyperbole (exaggeration) here, but we're not doubting that the father was a nice dude.

    septembering arms of year extend
    yes humbly wealth to foe and friend (37-38)

    Man, the speaker's father seriously is a generous guy. Not only does he give money to his pals, but also to those who are out to get him. Hmm, is that really such a good idea? Whatever, it's generous at least.