Study Guide

my father moved through dooms of love Stanza 11

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Stanza 11

Lines 41-42

proudly and(by octobering flame
beckoned)as earth will downward climb,

  • Oh, snap, we've got another month of the fall mutated to Cummings's liking: "octobering."
  • Just like with the month of September in the last stanza, the poem mutates October into an adjective. But what does all this gobbledygook mean?
  • Well, the bad news is that we think the speaker's father is approaching death. October is later in the year than September, so we're getting closer and closer to the dead time of winter. 
  • The speaker's father isn't a baby about it though. He walks "proudly," and the "octobering flame" of his later years draws him closer. 
  • The last part, "as earth will downward climb," reminds us again of the grave, and seems to play off of this whole high-low thing we've been hearing about.

Lines 43-44

so naked for immortal work
his shoulders marched against the dark

  • Yeah, it definitely looks like dear old dad is getting closer to death. The phrase "immortal work" makes us think of the afterlife.
  • It's like the speaker is saying that his father is ready for the work he'll do in Heaven. We wonder why he's "naked" for it.
  • Could it be some reference to the idea that we come into the world naked as babies and, in a way, return to that state when we die?
  • Or could it mean that the father has stripped all the pretenses of life away and is ready to meet his maker? 
  • Whatever it is, he marches bravely toward it. 
  • Line 44 presents a great image that really helps us feel the fearlessness of the father. 
  • The phrase "his shoulders marched" makes us envision the father marching toward death, a.k.a. "the dark," almost like a soldier. He's determined and unafraid.

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