in honor of e e cummings, i shall write this poetry response in all lower case. i find this poem incredibly intriguing. at first it would seem like it has a very happy tone, but as it progresses the tone becomes sadder and much less pleasant. i especially realized this upon the second and third times i read this poem.
the structure of this poem are quite simple. it is a six stanza poem composed entirely of couplets. some of them rhyme, some of them don't, thus i see this poem as free verse, especially since it relies so much on rhythm and diction on the readers part. i would love to hear mr. cummings read this out loud; in my opinion, one doesn't really know the proper way to read a poem until they hear the writer read it. diction and rhythm play huge roles in not only the reading of the poem, but the understanding of it. the rhythm is quite fast, as there is little pause between the first five stanzas, mainly because they are separated in some way, shape, or form by the word and. the first five stanzas of this poem almost sound like an excited child who is speaking in a very rushed tone.
the beginning is very simple in the literal sense; the four girls, who's relation is not really told, nor their ages, go to the beach to play. the beach is beside the ocean, and archetypically, oceans mean either a gain of knowledge, or the search for knowledge. one can make the assumption that the four girls are going to learn something.
maggie discovers a shell that sings very sweetly. this seems to be the only totally positive thing that happens to the four. but by the same token, it seems like she is awestruck by it. most shells when held up to one's ear make curious noises, but it appears that maggie is completely taken by this new sound that she has found. she is captivated, and suddenly it doesn't seem like the beach is that important, but only the sounds of the shell. this isn't always such a good thing.
milly seems to be the kind one, for she befriends a star who has a very weak glow. why would she befriend it? are they kindred spirits? can they learn a lesson from each other? did milly reach for the stars and just happen to find a lonely star that is well past it's prime? i believe cummings wanted the reader to think about such things.
molly had a very odd experience. instead of seeing something beautiful, she is chased around everywhere she goes by some demonic creature. it probably wasn't real, but rather, some demon that may have been haunting molly for awhile, because it ran sideways. it ran not directly at her, but she knew it was following her quickly. it was blowing bubbles and racing, so it must've been very persistent.
may, who's name gave a ring of yearning to my ear, went to the beach and found a tiny pebble which happens to speak volumes in regard to the tone of the poem. the "as small as a world and as large as alone" has always been one of my favorite images. in my opinion, it shows that in some poor fellow's case, all of the problems in the world can mean nothing in the face of the terrible feelings brought on by utter loneliness. at the end of this stanza comes the first real pause in speaking in the form of a period, which obviously means a transition. in this poems case, the transition leads to the moral.
this final stanza has parallel structure with the first stanza, which is an obvious sign that it is supposed to be related to the first stanza. in looking at both the first and the last, one should be able to see the underlying meaning of the poem very quickly. the four girls went down to the sea to play, but it ended up that they did much more than that. as the first line of the final stanza suggest, they might've lost themselves in the troubles or happenings of the real world, or maybe they didn't know themselves at all to begin with. but upon returning to the ocean, they remember, or discover, exactly who they are, or at least some quality about them. maggie the sweet song, milly the languid star, molly always running away from her fears, and may, the lonely lady. they went to the beach to play, and after it was all over, the ocean played it's archetypal role in the sense of knowledge.
Take one step back and read some good poetry.
If you have low expectations, go here and be happy.