The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

In only twenty-four lines, E. E. Cummings captures both the feeling and the meaning of spring. Only in spring, or “just” in spring, is the world a kind of wonderful mud bath for children. Spring rains make puddles in which children love to play. Spring is a carnival season—a time to celebrate nature—which accounts for the appearance of the “balloonman,” who adds a festive air to the season.

The first stanza and the next line also suggest that adults spring to life “in just,” or precisely in, spring. The balloonman may be little and lame, but he is whistling and apparently happy to be out and about. Cummings suggests the enthusiasm of children and the childlike enthusiasms of adults in his first use of the word “wee” in line 5. The word “wide” is expected after “far and,” but Cummings changes this clichéd expression to convey the “wee” of the fun that spring represents.

In the second stanza, the childlike speaker of the poem revels in playmates and their games. Playing marbles and pretending to be pirates are examples of the energy and imagination that spring stimulates. The poem itself is a manifestation of vigor; it is at once a description, celebration, and evocation of what spring feels like.

Line 10 suggests that spring turns the world into a splendid playground. The balloonman enters the poem again—this time described as “queer” and “old” but still whistling, as if in spring he...

(The entire section is 401 words.)