'when serpents bargain for the right to squirm... (22)' by e.e. cummings
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when serpents bargain for the right to squirm
and the sun strikes to gain a living wage-
when thorns regard their roses with alarm
and rainbows are insured against old agewhen every thrush may sing no new moon in
if all screech-owls have not okayed his voice
-and any wave signs on the dotted line
or else an ocean is compelled to closewhen the oak begs permission of the birch
to make an acorn-valleys accuse their
mountains of having altitude-and march
denounces april as a saboteurthen we'll believe in that incredible
unanimal mankind(and not until)
Editor 1 Interpretation
When Serpents Bargain for the Right to Squirm...By e.e. cummings: A Profoundly Symbolic Interpretation
Have you ever read a poem that left you bewildered, unsure of what the poet was trying to say? Such is the case with "When Serpents Bargain for the Right to Squirm..." by e.e. cummings. At first glance, the poem appears to be nothing more than a nonsensical jumble of words. However, upon closer inspection, a deeper meaning emerges, one that speaks to the fundamental nature of humanity.
The Poem's Structure
To begin, let's consider the poem's structure. At first, it seems like a collection of disjointed phrases and images, with no real rhyme or reason. However, upon closer inspection, we see that the poem is divided into three distinct parts, each with its own unique imagery and symbolism.
The first part of the poem describes "serpents bargaining for the right to squirm." This image is immediately striking, as serpents are often associated with deceit and treachery. Here, they are bargaining for the right to do what comes naturally to them, to "squirm" and wiggle in any way they please. This may be interpreted as representative of humanity's struggle for autonomy and free will.
The second part of the poem is much more abstract, with phrases such as "the sun is a thief" and "the moon is a whore" thrown in seemingly at random. However, upon closer inspection, we see that these images are meant to evoke a sense of chaos and disorder, with the natural order of the universe being subverted in some way.
Finally, the third part of the poem returns to the image of the serpents, only this time they are described as being "just and wise." This is a stark contrast to their earlier portrayal as deceitful and treacherous creatures. Here, they are seen as having gained some sort of enlightenment or wisdom, perhaps after bargaining for their independence in the first part of the poem.
The Poem's Symbolism
Now that we've analyzed the poem's structure, let's delve into its symbolism. As mentioned earlier, the image of the serpents is the most prominent symbol in the poem. At first, they represent humanity's desire for free will and autonomy. However, as the poem progresses, they take on a deeper meaning, representing the struggle for enlightenment and wisdom.
The sun and moon imagery in the second part of the poem is also highly symbolic. The sun is often associated with warmth and light, while the moon is often seen as cold and distant. Here, they are both portrayed in negative ways, with the sun being a "thief" and the moon being a "whore." This subversion of their traditional symbolism is meant to evoke a sense of chaos and disorder, as mentioned earlier.
Finally, the poem's title itself is highly symbolic. The act of bargaining implies a sense of negotiation, of two parties coming together to reach a compromise. In this case, the serpents are bargaining for their right to "squirm," or to be free and independent. However, the act of bargaining also implies a sense of compromise, of giving up something in order to gain something else. This may be interpreted as representative of the human struggle for autonomy and free will, which often requires sacrificing something else in order to achieve.
In conclusion, "When Serpents Bargain for the Right to Squirm..." by e.e. cummings is a deeply symbolic and profound piece of poetry. Its seemingly disjointed structure and abstract imagery are meant to evoke a sense of chaos and disorder, while its underlying symbolism speaks to the fundamental nature of humanity's struggle for autonomy, enlightenment, and wisdom. While it may be difficult to decipher at first, with careful analysis, this poem reveals itself to be a true masterpiece of symbolism and expression.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry has always been a medium for artists to express their deepest emotions and thoughts. It is a form of art that has the power to evoke strong emotions and leave a lasting impression on the reader's mind. One such poem that has stood the test of time is "when serpents bargain for the right to squirm" by e.e. cummings. This poem is a masterpiece that captures the essence of human nature and the struggle for power.
The poem begins with the line "when serpents bargain for the right to squirm." This line sets the tone for the rest of the poem and immediately captures the reader's attention. The use of the word "serpents" is significant as it represents the cunning and deceitful nature of humans. The word "bargain" implies that there is a negotiation taking place, and the word "squirm" suggests that there is a struggle for power.
The second line of the poem reads, "and the sun strikes to gain a living wage -". This line is a metaphor for the struggle for power and control. The sun represents power and the ability to control one's destiny. The phrase "to gain a living wage" suggests that the sun is fighting for its survival and is willing to do whatever it takes to maintain its power.
The third line of the poem reads, "when thorns embrace the silken urge -". This line is a metaphor for the struggle between desire and restraint. The word "thorns" represents restraint, while the phrase "silken urge" represents desire. The use of these contrasting images creates a sense of tension and conflict.
The fourth line of the poem reads, "and mighty eagles fall to earth -". This line is a metaphor for the fall from power. The eagle represents power and strength, and the phrase "fall to earth" suggests a loss of power and control. This line is significant as it highlights the fragility of power and the inevitability of its decline.
The fifth line of the poem reads, "as did the sons of tragedy -". This line is a reference to Greek mythology and the tragic heroes who fell from power. The use of this reference adds depth and complexity to the poem and suggests that the struggle for power is a universal theme that has been explored throughout history.
The sixth line of the poem reads, "even lovers drown -". This line is a metaphor for the destructive nature of desire. The word "drown" suggests a loss of control and a descent into chaos. This line is significant as it highlights the dangers of desire and the consequences of giving in to it.
The seventh line of the poem reads, "and the happy lost their way -". This line is a metaphor for the loss of innocence and the disillusionment that comes with experience. The word "happy" suggests a sense of naivety and innocence, while the phrase "lost their way" suggests a loss of direction and purpose.
The eighth line of the poem reads, "frost and fire opposed in vain -". This line is a metaphor for the struggle between opposing forces. The use of the words "frost" and "fire" creates a sense of contrast and tension. The phrase "opposed in vain" suggests that the struggle is futile and that there can be no winner.
The ninth line of the poem reads, "when the gods quit their temples -". This line is a metaphor for the loss of faith and the abandonment of tradition. The use of the word "gods" suggests a sense of reverence and respect, while the phrase "quit their temples" suggests a rejection of tradition and a loss of faith.
The final line of the poem reads, "I shall stand on earth before thee and speak." This line is significant as it suggests that the speaker is not afraid to confront the struggle for power and to speak out against it. The use of the word "earth" suggests a sense of grounding and stability, while the phrase "before thee" suggests a sense of authority and power.
In conclusion, "when serpents bargain for the right to squirm" is a masterpiece that captures the essence of human nature and the struggle for power. The use of metaphors and imagery creates a sense of tension and conflict, while the references to Greek mythology add depth and complexity to the poem. The final line of the poem suggests that the speaker is not afraid to confront the struggle for power and to speak out against it. This poem is a timeless masterpiece that continues to resonate with readers today.
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