Little Boy Crying Poem by Mervyn Morris Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English


“Little Boy Crying” is a short poem written by the Jamaican Poet Melvyn Morris. In this poem a child has been hit by his father. While the boy tries to comprehend this action and understand the reason why his father hit him, he is overcome with emotions and starts crying.

About the poet

Mervyn Eustace Morris was born in 1937 in Jamaica. He is a Jamaican poet. He is also a professor, literary critic and an essayist. He was awarded the title of the Poet Laureate of Jamaica. He has published many books and volumes of poetry. Some of his famous works are “Little Boy Crying”, “The Roaches”, “The Pond” and “Family Pictures”.


The poem is divided into three stanzas, each consisting of six to eight lines.

Stanza 1

Your mouth contorting in brief spite and hurt,

your laughter metamorphosed into howls,

your frame so recently relaxed now tight

with three year old frustration, your bright eyes

swimming tears, splashing your bare feet,

you stand there angling for a moment’s hint

of guilt or sorrow for the quick slap struck.


The speaker is describing the scene when a young child has just been hit by the father. The face of the child has started to morph into a crying face. His laughter has been turned into howls of crying. His body that was so relaxed is not bound tight due to pain and sadness. The three year old boy starts to shed tears that fall down to his feet. He looks for any signs of guilt or sorrow in his father’s face after slapping him.


The poem begins by describing the scene where a child has been slapped and is now crying. The little boy was playing happily earlier and laughing. But after being slapped his enotre mood has shifted. The mouth which was smiling is now contorted with hurt and anger. The laughter has turned into sounds of crying and the carefree body language of the child is now filled with anger and frustration. While the child is crying he is waiting for the father to apologize for hitting him. The child expects to see remorse or sadness in the father’ eye.

Stanza 2

The ogre towers above you, that grim giant,

empty of feeling, a colossal cruel,

soon victim of the tale’s conclusion, dead

at last. You hate him, you imagine

chopping clean the tree he’s scrambling down

or plotting deeper pits to trap him in.


The father is a giant ogre like being to the child that towers over him. The child thinks that his father feels nothing and is very cruel. The boy wishes for the father to end up like the giant, dead. The boy hates his father and is imagining cutting the tree that the giant is climbing on or digging deeper pits to trap him in.


Once the child realizes that the father does not feel sad or guilty for hitting him, his feelings turn to hate and revenge. The child looks at the father as if he is a monster, an ogre or a giant. The boy starts to plot hurting the father once he realizes that the father is cruel and heartless. The child thinks of his father as the evil giant in the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. In the same way, the boy wants to hurt his father and take his revenge on him.

Stanza 3

You cannot understand, not yet,

the hurt your easy tears can scald him with,

nor guess the wavering hidden behind that mask.

This fierce man longs to lift you, curb your sadness

with piggy-back or bull fight, anything,

but dare not ruin the lessons you should learn.

You must not make a plaything of the rain.


The speaker says that the child can not understand the hurt that the father is feeling. The speaker tells the child that his years are actually hurting him. The little boy can’t even guess the emotion hidden behind the father’s mask. The fierce father wants to soothe and calm the child by picking him up in his arms and  with him or bull-fighting with him, but the father can not do so because he needs to teach the child a valuable lesson. The lesson that he want to teach the child is that he is not supposed to play in the rain.


This stanza talks about the perspective of the father. The father knows that his son does not understand the reason behind his actions. The father also feels pain watching his little boy crying. Watching the son in pain makes the father want to console him and play with him but the father knows that sometimes a parent has to be strict with the child. Sometimes a parent need to discipline the child in order to teach them valuable lessons. The father, by hitting the child, wants to teach him that playing in the rain is not a good thing as it can make him fall sick or worse.