Cummings’ Rearranging of Whitman’s Lines
Here, we see Cummings engaging Whitman’s lines, rearranging them visually—but allowing the aural dimensions of rhythm and cadence to impact that rearranging. His scansion can be seen in the capitalization of letters and in the patterns of stressed, unstressed beats captured by the period and the slash.
Cummings created this sheet sometime around 1916.
Cummings works with lines from “Song of the Open Road,” “By Blue Ontario’s Shore,” and “Song of Myself.” The content of the lines resonates, too, with Cummings’ theories of the individual, the “enormous i,” if you will.
Here are the lines Cummings plays with, complete with links to the Whitman Archive.
my call is the call of battle, I nourish active rebellion / he going with me must go well arm’d / he going with me goes often with spare diet, poverty, angry enemies, desertions
from “Song of the Open Road,” section 14
the American compact is altogether with individuals / [the only government is that which makes minute of individuals] / the whole theory of the universe is directed unerringly to one single individual [–namely to you]
from “By Blue Ontario’s Shore,” section 15
agonies are one of my changes of garments
from “Song of Myself,” section 33
produce great persons, the rest follows
from “By Blue Ontario’s Shore,” section 3
For further discussion of this sheet, see Aaron M. Moe’s Zoopoetics: Animals and the Making of Poetry (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2014), chapter 3.