a man who had fallen among thieves

Cummings, E. E. (Edward Estlin)

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry
Secondary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Terry, James
  • Date of entry: Dec-10-1996


In typical, twisted Cummings syntax without punctuation or capitalization, the author relates an encounter with an unconscious drunk on the street. Other staunch citizens hurry by. The drunk is "swaddled with a frozen brook of pinkest vomit," one hand "clenched weakly dirt," and his trouser fly is open. The author takes up the challenge of a good Samaritan, brushing off the "stiffened puke." But he closes with the opposite of self-righteousness: "i put him all into my arms and staggered banged with terror through a million billion trillion stars."


The title and first line are from the Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan, but Cummings adds the disgusting details and the terror to make a special point. It may be the right thing to do to take care of the drunk or the down and out, but those who shrink from it may do so justifiably, because it certainly isn't pleasant or easy. The poem should be required reading in all emergency rooms.


First published: 1926

Primary Source

Complete Poems, 1913-1962


Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Place Published

New York



Secondary Source

Complete Poems, 1904-1962