By Richard Wilbur
A ball will bounce; but less and less. It's not
A light-hearted thing, resents its own resilience.
Falling is what it loves, and the earth falls
So in our hearts from brilliance,
Settles and is forgot.
It takes a sky-blue juggler with five red balls
To shake our gravity up. Whee, in the air
The balls roll around, wheel on his wheeling hands,
Learning the ways of lightness, alter to spheres
Grazing his finger ends,
Cling to their courses there,
Swinging a small heaven about his ears.
But a heaven is easier made of nothing at all
Than the earth regained, and still and sole within
The spin of worlds, with a gesture sure and noble
He reels that heaven in,
Landing it ball by ball,
And trades it all for a broom, a plate, a table.
Oh, on his toe the table is turning, the broom's
Balancing up on his nose, and the plate whirls
On the tip of the broom! Damn, what a show, we cry:
The boys stamp, and the girls
Shriek, and the drum booms
And all come down, and he bows and says good-bye.
If the juggler is tired now, if the broom stands
In the dust again, if the table starts to drop
Through the daily dark again, and though the plate
Lies flat on the table top,
For him we batter our hands
Who has won for once over the world's weight.
Richard Wilbur’s poem “The Juggler” is a piece of literature that is both compelling and thought provoking. It forces the reader to imagine a juggling show and the power the performer has over the audience. While this poem may be difficult to understand at first, it is worth every second of analysis to reach the underlying theme: The world may cause sadness and destruction but we have to appreciate the good tomes when they’re here.
By breaking down the stanzas, Wilbur’s unique use of imagery, sounds, and diction can be understood. The first stanza talks about how the more familiar humans are with the world, the less special it seems. For example, he uses words such as “resilience” and “brilliance” but then ends with how it all “settles and is forgot [ten]”. The second stanza shows that the juggler is in complete control: the balls “graze his finger ends” and “cling” to him. The third stanza is when the juggler is finishing his amazing act and exchanges the balls for domestic items. In addition, through the first line, “But a heaven is easier made of nothing at all than the earth regained”, Wilbur is expressing the idea that it is easier to think of heaven than life right now. The fourth stanza invites the reader to appreciate what the juggler has done however; the aprubtness of the end of the show illustrates how quickly we are to forger the good things. Finally, in the last stanza the juggler gained human emotions and it learned that life may be hard but there are moments of happiness: “For him we batter our hands, who has won for once the world’s weight”.
Throughout this poem there are intense shifts that help to understand the message the author is portraying. One of the most obvious shifts is that of gravity. The first stanza the “ball” is at rest, in the second it’s going up and in the third it is at max height. Through the fourth and fifth stanza the ball is slowing falling until it lands rather abrupt. There is also the change in energy levels. The second stanza contains language that portrays the highest of energy levels with the third being a little more gently all the way to the fifth stanza where things completely calm down and we see that “the juggler is tired now”. In addition, in the beginning of the poem the juggler is seen as someone who defies the natural because of the line where he is described as “sky blue” giving off a feeling of anti gravity on earth. However, in the final stanza the juggler gains more human traits when he becomes tired at the end of his act.
It is evident through words such as "won', "sure", and "noble" that the juggler has gained admiration from the audience and is thought of in a positive light. The sounds incorporated in the poem add a clue to the authors purpose. In the second stanza, the word "whee" in the line "whee in the air" gives off a feeling of joy and jubulation. The "shriek" and "boom" of the audience in the fourth stanza alert the reader to the sounds of admiration and appreciation. Also, the rhyme scheme ABCBAC is similar to that of the rhythm of juggling.
This poem can be seen as a wake up call to enjoy life . I picked out the key phrases that i believe convey the underlying theme:
the earth falls (3)
So in our hearts from brilliance (4)
settles and is forgot. (5)
It takes a sky blue juggler with five red balls (6)
To shake our gravity up. (7)
But a heaven is easier made of nothing at all (13)
Than the earth regained. (14)
Damn, what a show, we cry: (21)
Who has won for once over the world's weight (30).
Just as this poem urges you to appreciate the small joys, so do I.