On "Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town"

Topics: Present tense, E. E. Cummings, Grammar Pages: 1 (316 words) Published: February 2, 2006
The poem "anyone lived in a pretty how town" by E. E. Cummings is an odd one in the least, as it does not follow conventional grammatical rules. However, this style only contributes to the overall appeal that is presented to the reader. Coupled with an alluring rhythm, these uncommon practices allow the reader to comprehend a message in an unusual way. The setting of "anyone lived in a pretty how town" is more simple than the reader realizes, and it is only through the use of language that it is embellished. The poem starts with "anyone," which should be considered a noun for a single person here. Anyone is a person disliked by the "Women and men," much as a result of his being different from them. However, the children of the town recognize a love between Anyone and Noone, but soon forget it "as up they grew." Anyone and Noone die and are buried together, and the townspeople continue to live their lives. The rhythm of the poem is like that of a springy song. The use of grammar is successful in passing on the meaning of the words, but in attempting to translate the poem to standard English, much of the original beauty would be lost. The forth line, for example, would make little sense if re- written normally. "he sang his didn't he danced his did" has an attractiveness to it that can't be altered without altering the meaning of the line. One might say "he sang when he was unsuccessful, he danced when he succeeded" but it would still lack the effectiveness of the original line. "anyone lived in a pretty how town" takes place exclusively in the past tense until the point when Anyone and Noone are buried, and then it switches to the present tense for a single stanza, as they "dream their sleep," in heaven.
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