On the use of literary devices to contribute to the author’s purpose and how it is patriotic.
“next to of course god america i” is a poem aimed at revealing the potential of abusing patriotism to sway people’s thoughts. Patriotism can be used to manipulate people into doing things they usually wouldn’t. This implicit theme is enforced throughout the poem by allusions and other literary devices and suggests that the poem is not actually unpatriotic. The speaker is admonishing people on being wary of how patriotism is used and uses sarcasm to accent his position.
“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?”
He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water
-e. e. cummings
In this poem, there are several elements that hint patriotism. In one instance, the use of allusions is shown in lines 2-4: “…love you land of pilgrims’…oh say can you see by the dawn’s early my country “tis…” The speaker also says he loves America in lines 1-2: “next to of course god america i love you land of pilgrims”…” There are also other hints such as calling soldiers who fought for the country heroic in line 10: “…these heroic happy dead who rushed like…”
The speaker also uses sarcasm to emphasize his point: in line 9-11 “why talk of beauty what could be more beautiful than these heroic happy dead… like lions to the roaring slaughter”. The sarcasm is quite clear, the speaker asks what could be more beautiful than heroes running to their death; this image is not very “happy” to the reader. The author wrote this part in to portray to readers what patriotism can lead to: death of American lives. Cummings uses opposition in those lines strengthens the impact of the imagery conjured by the reader when reading those lines (line 9-11). For example, when the speaker says “…happy dead”, it doesn’t make sense. Death cannot be happy to most people. Another instance of opposition is in line 11: “rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter”. The “rushed like lions” part sets the main image of heroism and greatness. Then suddenly, the speaker says “slaughter”. This immediately negates any previous happy image from the reader’s mind. This kind of contrast sharpens the fact that Cummings is sarcastic. Normal people usually do not want to see their heroes die.
The poem uses colloquialism to make it seem as if an older American is angry about how patriotism is used and expresses anger through lines 7-8: “…by gory by jingo by gee by gosh by gum”. The diction of this line uses alliteration to show that the speaker expresses frustration about something– which sets the tone for most of the rest of the poem. In this case, the speaker is disappointed on how patriotic soldiers go fight for their country without question; this is shown in line 12: “…they did not stop to think they died instead”. The speaker wants people to be aware of what people are doing and if it is the right thing instead of being “deafanddumb” Also, the use of the word jingo, which is derived from the word jingoism (extreme patriotism), suggests that the speaker is against extreme patriotism. Patriotism that blinds people from what is right and wrong and prevents them from doing what they believe is in good for themselves and their country: line 13 “then shall the voice of liberty be mute?” These all support the author’s purpose: patriotism can be good but it can also be abused to manipulate people.
Finally in the last line of the poem, the speaker “… spoke, And drank rapidly a glass of water.” This line is important since it shows that the speaker is nervous and helps show that the speaker is addressing an audience. This is reinforced in the beginning since the style of line 1 is like an opening to a speech (speeches are usually presented in front of an audience). The last line shows that the whole poem, except the last line, was said quickly in one breath. This can mean that the speaker was nervous about saying exposing the faults of patriotism; speaking quickly is a characteristic of nervousness. The speaker drank a glass of water rapidly since his/her mouth was dry from saying so much in a short of amount of time. The speaker may be nervous because he may be marked as unpatriotic for saying something that others may interpret as unpatriotic. The author, Cummings, may have added this part to the poem to show that people can and should stand up against the abuse of patriotism.
Although the theme to this poem was implicit, it can be seen clearly through careful analysis that the poem itself is not unpatriotic. The poem wants people to become more educated in what patriotism can do, negatively. E. E. Cummings doesn’t mind if people are patriotic as long as they are not blinded by it. This poem is can be a warning to people to be more aware of what patriotism can cause: death of their loved ones and heroes.