Study Guide

my father moved through dooms of love Death

By E. E. Cummings

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.

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