O sweet spontaneous earth


O sweet spontaneous earth - (2007)     

E. E. Cummings

for high voice and piano


O sweet spontaneous
earth how often have

fingers of
prurient philosophers pinched ....


(for the remainder of this text, please consult any one of the many printed and electronic sources)

"O sweet spontaneous" was originally published as "II" in FIVE POEMS, in The Dial, Volume 68, Number 5 (May 1920). New York: The Dial Publishing Company, Inc., and republished as "O sweet spontaneous," the text found in as the second of two texts gathered together as LA GUERRE, Tulips and Chimneys, 1923


[ 4 pages, circa 2' 45" ]

E. E. Cummings


Cummings plays off the "earth" as against the activities of philosophers, scientists and religions. Given that "world views" are very much the passion of the aforementioned human pursuits, the poet suggests to us that the earth is indeed spontaneous, as well as sweet. Opposed to "sweet," Cummings sees philosophy as coercive, science as invasive and religion as drawing up the personae of a god or gods out of the wellspring of simple existence.



A simple, diatonic seven chord, in downward parallel motion accompanies the gentle declamation of the text. The accompaniment's duple meter plays off against the changing rhythms of the voice, as the simple, ongoing repetition of the underlying motive, which repeats itself not only for the purpose of a standard song form, but as a recurrence as theme, for recurrence is one theme of the text.



The downward progress of the accompaniment figure suggests an inevitability, a closing in. Trying to regain that sense of freshness and of beginning, the repetition of the motive "hammers away" as if religion might force itself to be heard over the magnificent silence of the earth.


And yet, as the simple accompaniment motive begins again, Cummings reminds us that each spring is rebirth, renewal and requires neither the ponderings of philosophy, investigations of science nor dogmas of religion for this rebirth of the earth. Rather, they are a part of it, than it of them.


The score for O sweet spontaneous earth according to the text as published in 1920 is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano-vocal score.


O sweet spontaneous earth