Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Great Weight of Balloons

1941: A workman crawls from a hatch in a
barrage balloon after making repairs.
Library of Congress Prints & Photographs

The other day the Academy of American Poets' Poem-A-Day email brought this tiny gem to my mailbox.

The Balloon of the Mind
by William Butler Yeats

Hands, do what you're bid:
Bring the balloon of the mind
That bellies and drags in the wind
Into its narrow shed.

The lightness of a balloon, the heaviness of a mind, the image of hands pulling a troubled mind into a calm berth. So much depth packed into twenty-two words. Masterful, Mr. Yeats.

Model of a statue to French balloonists
Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier.
Library of Congress Prints & Photographs

Of course the Yeats poem reminded me of another poem involving men and balloons. This one is by E. E. Cummings, who also asked in a different poem, "Who knows if the moon's a balloon?"

[in Just-]
by E. E. Cummings

in Just-
spring         when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles          far          and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's

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




balloonMan          whistles

Balloon ascension at Concord, NH State Fair c: 1901
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs

May our minds be as light as balloons in this new year.