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“next to of course god america i” is a famous poem written by e.e.cummings. It is a satirical poem that criticises the political scenario prevalent in America.
About the Poet:
e.e.cummings (1894-1962) was a notable American poet. According to Wikipedia, he “wrote approximately 2,900 poems, two autobiographical novels, four plays, and several essays.” Famous works of his include “Tulips and Chimneys”, “pity this busy monster, manunkind”, and “next to of course god america i”.
This poem consists of 14 lines but is not a sonnet. Instead, it is strategically written in two stanzas, with the second stanza being just one single line.
Analysis and Summary:
“next to of course god america i love you land of the pilgrims’ and so forth oh say can you see by the dawn’s early my country ’tis of centuries come and go and are no more what of it we should worry in every language even deafanddumb thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry by jingo by gee by gosh by gum why talk of beauty what could be more beaut- iful than these heroic happy dead who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter they did not stop to think they died instead then shall the voice of liberty be mute?”
The poem begins in the typical fashion of e.e.cummings– devoid of capitalisation and punctuation. The speaker of the stanza here can be gleaned to be some sort of a powerful, influential politician. He is giving a so-called inspirational speech here, as is mocked by the poet. The speaker begins the poem with praise of America but soon flippantly cuts it short by stating “and so forth”. Again, the politician carelessly utters “my/country ‘tis of” without finishing it with ‘thee’ as is required of the famous American patriotic song.
He arrogantly states that his country’s pride should be known in every language, “even deafanddumb”. He then attempts to glorify the soldiers who fought in the war by calling them “heroic happy dead”, comparing them to lions before passionately asking if the “voice of liberty” shall be “mute”.
This is a cleverly written stanza. The first of the two speakers is introduced here and his manner of speech– hurried, staccato lines– sheds light on how persons of power such as politicians often string together cliched, meaningless words to make their so-called motivational or inspirational speeches. The very first line and title of the poem “next to of course god america i”, devoid of capitalisation and punctuation, serves in putting God, America, and himself, the “patriotic politician” on the same pedestal, thus bringing out the narcissism of the speaker. Again, he glorifies soldiers in a very cliched way, shedding light on how their sacrifice is never properly honoured by such politicians.
He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water
In this single-lined stanza, the second hidden speaker, who is the observer, is revealed. He states that the previously mentioned politician pauses his speech and “rapidly drinks a glass of water”.
Despite being a single line, this is the most powerful in the poem. This pause made by the politician brings out two crucial things– one, reiterates the fact that he is only making a hurried speech for the sake of it and two, his passionate cry “shall the voice of liberty be mute?” was indeed mute as can be gleaned from his silence.
This is a witty poem. Despite being short, it succinctly makes critique of the politics of America.