In his poem "maggie and milly and molly and may", cummings uses grammar and tonal shifts to take the work from a childlike innocence to an adult like pensiveness.
Before even reading the poem, one takes notice of the alliteration of the title. The repeating of the letter "m" gives the work a childish and lyrical tone before it even begins. General lack of capitalization adds to the childish tone. Repetition of the word "and" is also another childlike characteristic. Children will often list things with the word interspersed throughout. Punctuation does appear early in the poem in the form of parenthesis. However, cummings attaches them onto the previous word instead of leaving a space. This adds a sort of eagerness. Another childlike attribute.
Along with his use of syntax, the opening couplet sets up a rhythm of children, in this case the four girls, skipping down a beach. This adds to the lyrical and playful tone. The tone of the of the poem starts to shift slightly when it gets to molly. It goes from maggie unable to remember her troubles because of a shell that "sang so sweetly" and milly befriending a starfish. When it gets to molly however the childlike innocence is disappearing for she is chased by a "horrible thing." And when it gets to may, all childlike tones are gone, for she has finds a stone that is "as small as a world and as big as alone." This is where the adult like pensiveness is, for may sees in this small stone just how intensely big loneliness can be and how small the world can seem.
The final stanza is parallel to the opening, and in looking at both the first and the last, one can see the underlying meaning of the poem. The rhythmic tone likened to children skipping down the beach is almost melancholy now. The four girls went to the sea to play but their trip ended up becoming far more.
cummings writes that no matter what it is lost, it is always ourselves that we find in the sea. (This is also supported by the belief that the...