Poem number 23, when it comes down to the wall poems that are visible throughout the Dutch city Leiden. This is the poem Sonnet IX or The hours rise written by E.E. Cummings.
About the poet
When Edward Estlin Cummings died on September 3 1962, he had written about 2.900 poems. Cummings, often referred as E.E. Cummings, also showed his other creative skills in paintings, novels, essays and playwrights.
Up to this day the work of Cummings (born on October 14 1894) is a source of inspiration for many poets. Both professionals and amateurs. He was one of the most influencal poets of the 20th century.
Graduated from Harvard University in 1915, he wanted only one thing: to become a poet. He started writing when he was eight years old. During the perion between the moment he started writing poetry and his graduation, he experimented with different forms of poetry.
In 1917, during the First World War, he volunteerd at the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps. He was
assigned to work in Paris. He fell in love with the city and would return there many times during his life.
He was arrested because of his beliefs about the war, which he expressed in letters to the home front. He was arrested on suspicion of espionage together with his friend William Slater Brown. They were held in militairy detention in a camp in La Ferté-Macé in Orny (departement Normandy).
It was Cummings’ father, who did everything to get his son released. In December 1917 he wrote a letter to the American president. Shortly after he was released. His captivity would inspire him to write the novel The Enormous Room. This book was published in 1922.
After his release, he was allowed to travel back home, where he was called to take part in the US Army.
Cummings would return to Paris after the war was over (1921). He started writing his poems that would later be published under the title Tulips and Chimneys (1923). His second poetry book, XLI Poems was shortened by his publisher. This did not stop the rise of his fame as a poet though.
In 1952 he was appointed as guest professor at the Harvard University. By that time, he was considered as one of the most important poets of his time.
Cummings died after a stroke on September 3 1962.
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
In the Dutch city of 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 repainted in 2005.