Dreaming is a state of mind when you can truly be free. This is what “The hours rise” by E.E. Cummings is all about. This poem is also known as “The hours rise up” or “Sonnet IX” (the official title). It was written in 1922.
E.E. Cumming in 1953. Photo by Walter Albertin.
Image source: Wikipedia
Who was E.E. Cummings?
Edward Estlin Cummings (1894 – 1962), otherwise known as E.E. Cummings or e e cummings was an American poet, writer and painter. When he died in 1962, he left the world an astonishing amount of 2.900 poems.
Cummings wrote in a special style. Sometimes provocative, sometimes erotic, sometimes close to the edge. Instead of becoming an avant-garde style writer, because of his contacts and surroundings, he wrote mostly in a traditional style. He wrote many sonnets, but with a modern twist. Occasionally he touched the blues form and sometimes the acrostics (where the first letter or syllable of each line (or paragraph) or other feature that is recurring, speels out a word. Sometimes it’s words, sometimes the alphabet and sometimes a message)). This acrostic style is covered by many poets after Cummings, who claimed that they were influenced by this American poet.
Love, nature and everything in between. That was what his poetry was about. Sometimes he used satire in his poetry, to bring forward a message.
About “The hours rise”
This poem is also known as “The hours rise up.” That’s because the original title of this poem is simply “Sonnet IX.”
This poem signifies the loss of poetry in the city. There is only one moment when you’re truly free. That moment is when you’re dreaming. The words “poem” and “star” are carefully chosen: to show that this happens at night. People are then free to go wherever they want to. As dawn approaches, the stars are slowly swallowed up by the approaching light. People wake up and are confronted with the real world. With all its problems and things to worry about.
The hours rise
the hours rise up putting off stars and it is
into the street of the sky light walks scattering poems
on earth a candle is
extinguished the city
with a song upon her
mouth having death in her eyes
and it is dawn
goes forth to murder dreams….
i see in the street where strong
men are digging bread
and i see the brutal faces of
people contented hideous hopeless cruel happy
and it is day,
in the mirror
i see a frail
dreams in the mirror
is dusk on earth
a candle is lighted
and it is dark.
the people are in their houses
the frail man is in his bed
sleeps with death upon her mouth having a song in her eyes
the hours descend,
putting on stars….
in the street of the sky night walks scattering poems
Image source: Wikipedia
In the Dutch city Leiden, you can find poems that are painted on facades on different buildings. Most of them were part of a project called Poems on walls. This project started in 1992. Until 2005 poems were painted (by hand) on many different facades throughout the city. In 2005 the last poem was painted: number 101. Since that time more poems have been painted on walls. Some of them related to the project, others not.
More information about this project can be found here.
The poem by Cummings was the 23rd poem painted on the wall. It is located at the side of Nieuwe Rijn number 36.
The original version was painted in 1994. After the renewal of the facade, the poem was painted again in 2005.
More poetry in the public space
Another interesting Dutch project is the website “Straatpoëzie” (translation: street poetry). This is an initiative of Kila van der Starre and the Utrecht University.