Cummings’s ‘‘anyone lived in a pretty how town’’ consists of nine four-line stanzas. The poem is predominantly written in tetrameter, or lines consisting of four feet (each foot represents one stressed syllable and one unstressed syllable).
The first line of the poem, which is also the poem’s title, introduces the character of Anyone and the picturesque village that he lives in. The next line mentions the sound of the bells that can often be heard in the town. Presumably this refers to church bells, which announce holidays, weddings, funerals, and other events that mark the passage of time and of individual lives. The third line lists the seasons, again underscoring the passage of time. The stanza’s final line, which is a bit nonsensical, is meant to represent Anyone’s exploits as he goes through life.
The poem then mentions the other townspeople, stating that they do not concern themselves with Anyone. Instead, they go about conducting their small lives. The final line of this stanza mentions celestial bodies and precipitation, natural phenomena that, like the seasons, mark time as it passes.
In the third stanza, a minority of the youngsters in the town have an inkling that Noone (who is first introduced in the final line of the stanza) is falling in love with Anyone. The children of the town, however, become less aware of those around them and more self-involved as they mature into adulthood. In the third line of the stanza, the list of the four seasons is repeated. Yet the order in which they appear has been changed. This change further emphasizes time and its passage.
Mentioning trees and their leaves, as if to indicate that it is autumn (the first season mentioned in the list in the previous stanza), Noone’s love for Anyone is expounded upon. She is happy when he is happy and sad when he is sad. The third line of the stanza perhaps indicates that the season has changed from autumn to winter. The stanza’s final line once again underscores Noone’s love for Anyone; anything related to him is of the utmost importance to her.
Other people in the town, the Someones and the Everyones, wed and live together. They experience the happy and the sad moments of life. They rise in the morning and go to bed at night. They live out their lives in the rhythmic (and somewhat banal manner) in which lives are generally lived. The fourth and final line of this stanza implies that the townspeople die in much the same way as they have lived; i.e., as a matter of course.
Stanza 6 opens with the aforementioned list of celestial bodies. The order, like the repeated list of the seasons, has been rearranged. In this instance, the changed order suggests that time has moved from day to night. This is reinforced by the second line of the stanza and the mention of winter. Only the winter (i.e., the passage of time) can address why children grow up and are no longer able to see the small mysteries of life around them. The second line of the first stanza, which refers to the bells heard throughout the town, is repeated. Indeed, this stanza mentions children as they grow up and then links this to the church bells that ring to signify the events that mark the rhythms of life, such as birth, marriage, and death.
Anyone dies and Noone mourns him. She, too, eventually dies, which is implied by the statement that they are buried beside each other. In a nod to the fact that life goes on, Anyone and Noone are interred by townspeople who live hectic lives and have little (if any) time to stop and reflect upon the burial. In the stanza’s final line, time crawls by in small increments.
As time passes, Anyone and Noone live in their deaths, a sort of slumber that is filled with dreams. Their bodies decompose and fuel the soil and the coming of spring.
The townspeople are likened to the sounds of the church bells, and the list of seasons repeats itself in yet another variation on their order. The townspeople are born and they die. They live the same lives and this cycle repeats itself endlessly. In the final line, the celestial bodies are listed once more, though they retain the order in which they first appeared in the poem’s second stanza.
Poetry for Students, Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Poetry, Volume 30, e. e. cummings, Gale Cengage Learning, 2009