Saturday 11 April 2020

The Ball Poem by John Berryman

The Ball Poem
                                           By John Berryman

Analysis :

·        The poem is philosophical in tone and didactic in nature.
·        It is an extract from the poem ‘The Ball’ by John Berryman.
·        The poem is composed as free verse without any rhyme scheme and stanza division and pattern.
·        The poem conveys that this world is materialistic and as a human being we must understand that the things we have received or achieved have to be lost.
·        The theme of the poem is that money is external and loss is the reality of life as gain and loss are the two sides of same coin.

Video on the poem Fog

Line by line explanation

Line 1-7
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’:
An ultimate shaking grief fixes the boy
As he stands rigid, trembling, staring down

The poem opens with a boy, in the scene, who has lost his ball. Now the poet is contemplating how the boy may be feeling after losing his ball as well as the poet is concerned about the mental condition of the boy. He is thinking what the boy will do and how he will react after losing his ball. The poet was possibly standing at a distance where the boy was playing with his ball. He could see how the ball had slipped away from the boy’s hands. When the ball went down the street, it was bouncing happily. Then, the ball slipped away bouncing on the ground into a water body nearby. The poet senses overpowering grief of the boy but he knows that any sort of consolation is useless this time. That’s why he doesn’t want to tell the boy that he may take some other ball and should not lament over the lost ball. The poet understands that the boy is so much attached with that ball that he would not accept any other ball as he would not have the same sense of belongingness with a new ball what he had for the old one which is lost. The boy is completely overcome by the grief over losing his ball that’s why he doesn’t move. He is fixed to the ground where he is standing. Due to his grief the boy feels broken from inside and his body is trembling. He is continuously staring the ground while his body is stiff and not moving from the place where he has lost his ball.  

Line 8-14
All his young days into the harbour where
His ball went. I would not intrude on him,
A dime, another ball, is 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.

The boy is grief-stricken due to the loss of his favourite ball and he feels as if all his memories associated with his toy have also gone into water along with the ball. But, the poet says that he will not interfere nor he will offer the boy to accept money or another ball. He very well knows that such efforts will be of no use. In fact, the poet wants the boy to feel the pain of his first loss and understand what his responsibility is at the moment. He wants the boy to see that this world of ours is full of possessions. In this world we would receive or achieve various possessions such as money, property, job, relations, power, fame and so on. At the same time we would lose them in the course of time. Just as the boy has lost his favourite toy, people would lose their favourite things as they advance in life. The boy has to realise and accept this bitter truth of life. Once a thing is lost, can’t be regained in life. We should not keep crying over the things we lose in the course of time. We have to manage with other things as replacements as the lost things can’t be bought with money. Money can buy new things which can’t give the same sense of belongingness; in this sense money is external. Money can buy material things but not happiness, satisfaction, sense of belongingness and love.

Line 15-18
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

The poet is able to see that the boy is trying to learn the philosophy of loss. His desperate eyes are able to understand that his ball is lost forever and it will not come back. Now, the boy seems to be ready to face the loss and accept the truth that loss is a part of life. Every man has to learn how to face the loss of favourite things as well as understand that gain and loss are two sides of the same coin.

Video on Amanda

Poetic Devices

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!

And most know many days
And no one buys a ball back
every man must one day know

The epistemology of loss,
In a world of possessions.
What, what is he to do?

Merrily bouncing, down the street

What, what is he to do?

All his young days into the harbour
People will take balls,
Balls will be lost always,

A dime, another ball, is worthless

Important Question - Answers

Q1. What does the poet want to convey through the poem ‘The ball Poem’?

Ans.  John Berryman wants to convey the significance of loss in our life. He teaches how to cope up with the loss. Experiencing loss helps to grow up and face hardships. The poet makes the boy understand his responsibility when he loses his ball as the loss is inevitable. One needs to accept the loss as a part of life no matter how much it hurts. Life must go on. Life is to be lived and not wasted mourning over the loss which is past and clinging to something that is lost just like the boy who was trembling with grief when his ball went into harbour. He felt that all his childhood memories were lost. But the poet wants the boy to learn the epistemology of loss and understand that the past is gone and, will never come back. Staying strong is the only way to survive. Hence, it is important for everyone to experience loss, to stand up after it and to get on with life.

Q2. What does the poet mean when he says, “Money is external”?

Ans. In ‘The Ball poem’ Money is termed as ‘external in terms of the loss which is immaterial. Money is external as it cannot buy memories. It can buy materials such as toys, gifts, houses, vehicles, etc. It can’t buy lost childhood, lost memories, lost relations, nor can it replace the things that we love and the things that really matter in our life. If such things are lost, they can’t be bought back. Money is external to such losses.

Video on The Ball Poem

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