English Language & Literature
Poem 5: The Ball Poem
The Ball Poem
Once a boy was playing with his ball. It was bouncing in the street up and down. The boy was happily enjoying the game. While bouncing, suddenly it fell into the water and was lost.
Without the ball, the boy became full of grief. The poet said and that there were other balls. He could purchase another since it was not a great loss. There was no need to worry. But, the boy had that ball for a long time so he was deeply grieved due to his attachment with it. It was linked to his memories. The poet thinks that it is of no use to purchase another ball. He must feel his responsibility of the loss.
What is the boy now, who has lost his ball,
What, what is he to do ? I saw it go
Merrily bouncing, down the street, and then
Merrily over — there it is in the water!
No use to say ‘O there are other balls’.
Explanation: The poem is about a little boy. He loses his ball and watches it bouncing down the street into the water. To us, the loss of ball is of minor consequence but to the little boy, it was a valued possession. The ball had been with him for a long time and it was linked to the memories of the days when he played with it.
An ultimate shaking grief fixes the boy
As he stands rigid, trembling, staring down
All his young days into the harbour where
His ball went. I would not intrude on him;
A dime, another ball, is worthless.
Explanation: The boy is very much troubled at the loss of his ball and plunges into grief. He stands stiff and trembling while staring at his ball. He is upset as he looks into the gloomy water because it has been with him for a long time. When the ball bounces into the water, all his memories of the childhood days flash in front of him.
Moreover the poet doesn’t offer him money to buy another ball because that would be worthless.
Now he senses first responsibility
In a world of possessions.
People will take balls,
balls will be lost always, little boy.
And no one buys a ball back. Money is external.
Explanation: The boy cannot find his ball in the gloomy water. This is when he gets his first sense of responsibility.
The poet suggests that from the loss of the ball, the boy is learning what it means to lose something in the world of possessions, where he will lose things, he will buy some more to replace the ones lost, but would never be able to buy back the thing that he had lost. The poet, thus, makes the boy understand about his responsibility as the loss is immaterial. Money is external as it cannot buy memories, nor can it replace the things that we love, the things that really matter.
He is learning, well behind his desperate eyes,
The epistemology of loss, how to stand up
Knowing what every man must one day know
And most know many days, how to stand up.
Explanation: The poet suggests that from the loss of the ball, the boy is learning how to stand up in a world of possessions. The boy is learning what it means to lose something. The poet says that knowing that everyman has to stand up after such losses, the boy too will learn how to stand up and leave the losses behind as he would have understood the true meaning and nature of loss.