Study Guide

my father moved through dooms of love Stanza 16

By E. E. Cummings

Stanza 16

Lines 61-62

though dull were all we taste as bright,
bitter all utterly things sweet, 

  • Well, we guess it's good that everybody's tasting "bright." 
  • Oh, wait, the line seems to be saying that we're actually dull, and only taste bright. Tasting better is than nothing, we guess. 
  • Notice that the poem is playing with the senses here. You can't actually taste something that's bright, right? Right. But we kind of get the idea. 
  • Line 61 continues with the taste thing, saying that things that are sweet are tasting bitter. 
  • Is it us, or is this poem getting dark?

Lines 63-64

maggoty minus and dumb death
all we inherit,all bequeath

  • Mmm… "maggoty": one of the grossest adjectives ever? We think so.
  • Here, we get a lot of intense death imagery. "Maggoty," of course, makes us think the little squirmy baby flies that feed on the bodies of all dead animals, including humans if they get half a chance. 
  • The word "minus" here is also a way of talking about death. Death is a taking away of something, right?
  • So, put "maggoty minus" together, and you get a really intense image of the dark realities of death. 
  • The phrase "dumb death" could be using the old school version of the word "dumb," meaning a person who can't talk. When you're dead you can't talk (natch'), so you're dumb. 
  • Oh, and don't miss the alliteration here. You've got the repeated M sounds and then D's. Check out "Sound Check" for more. 
  • In the last line of the stanza, the speaker seems to be pointing out the fact that all humans are bound to die. It's just part of being human. 
  • We "inherit' our mortality from our parents, and we "bequeath" it to our children. The squished word, "inherit,all" highlights this idea that mortality is something that we all share.

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