in Just- by E. E. Cummings

Within ‘in Just’-, E. E. Cummings uses his characteristic style that has made his poems so memorable and engaging to read. He plays with spacing, capitalization, indention, and syntax while at the same time creating a semi-clear image of spring. The poem delves into themes of spring, rebirth, innocence, and alludes to a darker theme of corruption. 

in Just- by E. E. Cummings

 

Summary of in Just- 

‘in Just-’ by E. E. Cummings speaks on the beginnings of spring, a concerning balloonman/satyr, and the children he calls to his side. 

The poem takes the reader through a few, confusing, spring-like images. He speaks on the mud that suddenly appears everywhere and then later, the puddles of water. In amongst all this are children playing. They stop what they’re doing and run or dance to the side of a whistling balloonman. The poem concludes with the man continuing his whistling and the speaker alluding to more children coming to his side. 

 

Structure of in Just-

in Just-’ by E. E. Cummings is a twenty-four line poem that is contained within one stanza of text. The lines do not follow rational poetic rules. The syntax is scrabbled, as it commonly is within cumming’s works, and the spacing is pushed to its limit. CUmming’s poetry it notoriously difficult to read, but this poem, in its brevity, is simpler. Additionally, the techniques cummings uses, such as in the removal of spaces within words (take “eddieandbill” for example) have a very clear purpose. 

In regards to the rhyme scheme or metrical pattern, there is not a trace of either. The poem is written entirely in free verse, embodying the trends of modernist literature of the period. But, that does not mean that the poem is without structure entirely. There is a refrain of sorts in the repetition of the word “spring” and the speaker declaration that “it is spring”. Additionally, there is the chorus-like gathering of the children. First, there’s “eddieandbill” and then in the second half of the poem “bettyandisbel” 

 

Poetic Techniques of in Just- 

Despite its lack of traditional structure, there are serval poetic techniques a close reader of ‘in Just-’ can spot. These include alliteration, enjambment, allusion, and juxtaposition. The latter, juxtaposition  is when two contrasting things are placed near one another in order to emphasize that contrast. 

A poet usually does this in order to emphasize a larger theme of their text or make an important point about the differences between these two things. For example, the satyr-like balloonman and the children. The children are inherently innocent and the balloonman, through his goat features, represents lust, mischief, and drunkenness. 

Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. For example, “luscious the little / lame” in lines three and four and “whistles” and “wee” in lines twelve and thirteen. 

Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. For instance, the transitions between lines five and six and eleven and twelve. 

Lastly, an allusion is an expression that’s meant to call something specific to mind without directly stating it. In the final lines of the poem, cummings alludes to the true nature of the balloonman by giving him the feet of a goat. He is obliquely connecting the man to the mythology surrounding satyrs. 

 

Analysis of in Just-

Lines 1-5 

in Just-
spring          when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman
whistles          far          and wee

In the first lines of ‘in Just’- the speaker begins by declaring it spring. All of a sudden the entire world is consumed by spring. He describes it as “mud- / luscious,” there is mud everywhere. The first character that cummings puts into the poem is a “lame balloonman”. The word “lame” refers, most likely, to a limp. There is an interesting juxtaposition between the new life that spring commonly represents and the not quite as lively limping man. 

The speaker adds that this man is moving through the landscape whistling. Characteristic in cumming’s poetry is his use of spacing and disuse of capitalization. In these lines, there is a great example of how the spaces between words are used to slow down a reader’s progress through a piece of writing. It mimics the distance that the man’s whistle travels.

 

Lines 6-9 

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s
spring

Now, there are two more characters in the poem. They’re named “eddie” and “bill”. Spacing is used in a different way in these lines. The names are merged together as if the speaker is talking quickly and excitedly. These two boys come “running from” playing “marbles” and pretending to be pirates.

The next line reiterates that it is spring. This is a reminder to the reader of the importance of the setting and the time of year. It also represents the speaker’s own joy over the change of season. 

 

Lines 10-15

when the world is puddle-wonderful
the queer
old balloonman whistles
far          and             wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing
from hop-scotch and jump-rope and

Just like the speaker described the world as being full of mud in the first lines of ‘in Just-, in these lines he depicts the many puddles that are found. Cummings coins the compound word “puddle-wonderful” just as he did “mud-licious”. They are fun words, meant to express the new possibilities of spring and the pleasure the speaker is taking in it. 

Once again the balloonman enters the story. He’s still whistling and calling more children with his tune. Now, “betty” and “isbel” come “dancing” towards the sound of this music. They were playing in the same way that Eddie and Bill were in the previous lines. Rather than playing with marbles and at being pirates, they were engaged in “hop-scotch and jump-rope”. 

 

Lines 16-24 

it’s
spring
and
         the
                  goat-footed
balloonMan          whistles
far
and
wee

In the final lines of ‘in Just-’ cummings completely disregards traditional spacing and plays with the different ways that lines and words can be indented from the margin. First, he reiterates that it is indeed “spring”. He is clearly quite happy about this and wants to make sure that the reader knows it. 

Next, cummings depicts the balloonman as “goat-footed”. The obvious reference cummings is alluding to here is the mythology behind the image of the satyr. Pan is the most obvious example. Satyrs are known for their enjoyment of drinking and mischief, therefore making his image in the poem slightly ominous, especially considering the kids are running to his side. The poem ends suddenly and without punctuation. The balloonman/satyr continues to whistle and presumably kids from all over join him. 

Cummings does not tell the reader one way or another what’s going to happen next, relating back to the endless possibilities of the poetic form and of spring itself. 

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