Download in Just- Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

A nature poet, Cummings wrote poems that celebrate nature as a cycle of experience. The changes of the seasons provoke changes in human moods. In this poem, spring is presented as a miraculous event. An old, lame balloonman comes to life, whistling and nimbly moving about. It is as if he has discovered his second childhood. But spring also makes him more fully a man—as the last reference to him suggests.

Balloons are associated with parties, carnivals, birthdays, and other special events. Balloons are attractive playthings because they float through the air so effortlessly. They express the human desire to fly, and they lift the spirits. They soar through space just as human feelings do in this poem. That a lame, queer old man should be associated with balloons suggests how powerful the need to play and to imagine is for everyone—not just for the children who play games and splash in mud puddles. Whatever is old, or lame, or queer about human beings is cured “in Just-” spring.

The images of nature in the poem—mud and water—suggest the basic elements of life. Without water, life perishes. Moreover, water mixed with earth—mud—becomes a human construction. It is not only a material children play with but also the stuff from which human beings construct their games and build life for themselves. With the word “mud-luscious” the poet mimics the inventiveness of human beings playing in mud. “Luscious” suggests the sensuality of the mud. Children like it because it can be shaped to their desires, and they enjoy the touch and the feel of it. But so do adult sculptors and artists, who use clay or mud for the material of art. In some creation myths, human beings are made out of mud—from the stuff of the earth and of spring. Given the way Cummings coins words, alters punctuation, and invents his own typography, it would seem that the poem is not only about spring but also about creativity itself and how it springs from...

(The entire section is 521 words.)