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On '"next to of course god america i"

Richard S. Kennedy (1994)

[The poem contains] a new satirical device...namely the use of allusive quotations or fragments of quotations, a technique that he learned from T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound.  But unlike Eliot or Pound he does not employ this technique for general cultural criticism, rather, he aims to produce real laughter by ridiculing his subjects.  In [this poem], carefully worked out in sonnet form, he pillories a Fourth-of-July speechmaker by choosing patriotic and religious cliches common to platform oratory and compressing fragments of them together in order to demonstrate by this jumble the meaningless emptiness that these appeals have....

from Richard S. Kennedy, E. E. Cummings Revisited (New York: Twayne, 1994): 71.

 William V. Davis (1970)

[Davis comments on the inverted syntax of the final line]

...Here the adverb "rapidly" occurs in a most unlikely position in this sentence (which is a sentence even though the end punctuation is lacking)....Why...would cummings have inverted the syntax...?  If we eliminate the necessity for rhyming the final word of the poem with the final word of line eleven ("slaughter"), since clearly the necessary rhyme could have been achieved without inverting the syntax ("And rapidly drank a glass of water"), then cummings must have had some other reason for the inverted syntax.  And what better reason than that in a sonnet in which he has combined two forms [the Italian and English], and in a poem which expresses a theme of "inverted" or confused philosophy, cummings, as persona, inverts his apparently objective commentary on the situation and the words in which he reports his commentary?  In short then, this syntactical inversion here at the end of the poem serves to indicate the similar tranformation [sic] of the sonnet form which cummings has effected in terms of form and further serves to point to the "inverted" philosophy of the speaker of lines one through thirteen.

from William V. Davis, "Cummings' 'next to of course god america i.'" Concerning Poetry 3 (1970): 15.

Brian Docherty

‘next to of course god america i’ is a satire on both the cliché-spouting patriot and the gullibility of his audience. cummings includes most of the clichés politicians mouth at election time, and his point is that while anyone who dared to criticise any of these concepts would be labelled un-American and a commie subversive, it is politicians like this who have muted the voice of liberty. His general attitude to politicians is expressed succinctly in ‘a politician is an arse upon’, a two-line epigram m the best classical tradition.

From Docherty, Brian, "e.e. cummings." In American Poetry: The Modernist Ideal. Ed. Clive Bloom and Brian Docherty. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995. Ó 1995 The Editorial Board Lumiere (Cooperative Press) Ltd.

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