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
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.
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 poem is about losing something that you love, and learning to grow up without it. 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.
Fig: A little boy loss his loved ball
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.
Question for Short Summary: The Ball Poem
Try yourself: What is the main theme of the poem?
- The poem explores the theme of the loss of innocence and the process of growing up.
- It portrays a little boy who experiences grief and learns the concept of loss when he loses his beloved ball.
- The ball symbolizes his young days and happy innocence.
- The poem highlights that as we grow older, we will face various losses and challenges, but we must learn to stand up and move on.
- The loss of the ball represents the loss of something cherished, teaching the boy the reality of the world and the need to accept and let go.
- This theme reflects the universal experience of transitioning from childhood to adulthood.
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.