the ball poem
This poem, by John Berriman, is about losing something that you love, and learning to grow up. It is about a little boy, who, for the first time in his young life, is learning what it is like to experience grief at the loss of a much beloved possession-his ball. To us, the loss of a ball is of minor consequence, and our reaction to it is to say 'O there are other balls'. But to a little boy, this is not so. A dime, another ball, is worthless. Money is external; it cannot buy back our love, nor replace the things that we love: the things that really matter.
In this poem, the boy's ball personifies his young days and happy innocence. In this world, people will take balls just as they will take away our innocence and force us to grow up. And once we lose this innocence, we can never get it back. Balls will be lost always, little boy, and no one buys a ball back. This poem goes to show how, all throughout your life, you will be forced to do things that you don't want to do; and you will lose or have to give up the things that you love. But, despite this, you have to learn to stand up - to be strong and get on with your life - no matter how much it hurts inside. Because that is the only way you will survive; you have to learn to accept and let go - and not cling onto something that you can never have.
The poet uses imagery when describing how the ball personifies the spirit of the boy's childish innocence. In the last five lines, we visualize how the spirit of this little boy, like the ball, is sinking into the dark waters of the harbour. As it drifts further away, the boy learns to grow up, and that part of him that is linked to that ball grows up as well, until it is no longer a little boy.
This poem consists of only one stanza. There is no rhyming, but the poet instead conveys his meaning through the rhythm, the tone, and his use of words. For example, in the lines 'I saw it go, merrily bouncing down the street, and then merrily over' the short, brisk, happy words allow you to visualize a ball bouncing along. In the lines '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,' the words and rhythm is tragic, dramatic and harsh, which is suitable for the situation. Similar uses of tone and rhythm help add to the effect of the poem, and help emphasize the meaning.
short questions & answers
Q1: What message does John Berryman want to convey through this poem?
Ans: The message that the poet wants to convey is the importance of loss and responsibility in life. We should not forget the importance of possessions.
Q2: How does the boy feel at the loss of his ball?
Ans: The boy is very much troubled at the loss of his ball. His ball falls in water. He is much upset as he has a long association with the ball.
Q3: “Money is external.’ What does the poet mean by this expression?
Ans: He makes the boy understand about his responsibility as the loss is immaterial. He can purchase another ball. He explained that the world is full of possessions and money is an external item.
text book questions & answers
Q1: Why does the poet say, “I would not intrude on him”? Why doesn’t he offer him money to buy another ball?
Ans: The poet wants the boy to experience the loss. He should learn that it is the part of life. That’s why the poet doesn’t want to interfere the boy and doesn’t want to offer him money to buy another ball.
Q2: “… staring down/All his young days into the harbour where/His ball went …” Do you think the boy has had the ball for a long time? Is it linked to the memories of days when he played with it?
Ans: Yes, the boy has had the ball for a long time i.e. since his childhood. Yes, it is linked with the memories of days when he played with it.
Q3: What does “in the world of possessions” mean?
Ans: In the world of possessions’ means people like to possess all sorts of things in the world. Money is external because it can buy only material objects; it cannot buy everything that one loses.
Q4: Do you think the boy has lost anything earlier? Pick out the words that suggest the answer.
Ans: No, the boy hasn’t lost anything earlier. The words ‘He senses first responsibility’ suggest the answer.
Q5: What does the poet say the boy is learning from the loss of the ball? Try to explain this in your own words.
Ans: The poet says that the boy is learning to cope up with the loss of the ball. He is experiencing grief and learning to grow up in this world of possessions. He learns that there are so many things in life that are to be lost and cannot be brought back. It is useless to feel sorrow for it.
Q6: Have you ever lost something you liked very much? Write a paragraph describing how you felt then, and saying whether — and how — you got over your loss.
Ans: student should write the answer of this question in his/her own words.
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