in time’s a noble mercy of proportion
with generosities beyond believing
(though flesh and blood accuse him of coercion
or mind and soul convict him of deceiving)
whose ways are neither reasoned nor unreasoned,
his wisdom cancels conflict and agreement
-saharas have their centuries, ten thousand
of which are smaller than a rose’s moment
there’s time for laughing and there time for crying-
for hoping for despair for peace for longing
-a time for growing and a time for dying:
a night for silence and a day for singing
but more than all (as all your more than eyes
tell me) there is a time for timelessness
There is a Being that is generous beyond belief, whose ways are beyond logic, whose wisdom trumps conflict and agreement. What –you may ask– is wisdom that cancels even agreement? It is a picture of complete harmony, for agreement necessitates a separation that requires a coming together. This is true despite the accusations of flesh and blood or the conviction of mind and soul.
The first line has: “in time’s” which should be read as “in time is” rather than possessive. After the opening six lines there are a series of comments about objects in time. The first takes a large object, the Sahara, and takes its everlastingness (its ten thousand centuries) and compares it diminutively to “a rose’s moment”. The image invokes the seemingly bigness of death (a desert) and shows it to be smaller than the singular climax of life in a rose’s blooming. Then it incorporates the well known passage from Ecclesiastes, tweaking it along the way.
Cummings invested into various words his own meanings, which are best understood in considering the whole of his work. The “more than eyes” invokes the soul; see the prayer poem number 65 in XAIPE: “now the ears of my ears awake and/ now the eyes of my eyes are opened)”.
With the emphasis on time, the list of events that occur in time, the conclusion brings in transcendence. Time is a common enemy to the poet, to the lover, but there is something bigger and wiser and more powerful than time. The whole of the poem rises to the final line in which Timelessness touches time.
Written in the form of a Shakespearean Sonnet, Number 11 from 95 Poems.