The Juggler Poem By Richard Wilbur Summary, Notes And Line By Line Analysis In English


The poem “The Juggler” by Richard Wilbur is a work of literature that is engrossing and provocative. The reader is compelled to visualize a juggling performance and the influence the artist has over the crowd. The main concept of this poem—which may be challenging to grasp at first, is that while the world may bring sorrow and tragedy, we must value the precious moments while they are still alive.

About The Poet

American poet and literary translator Richard Purdy Wilbur was born in New York. Wilbur was a leading poet in his day, and his work, written mostly in conventional forms, was distinguished by its wit, charm, and grace.

Stanza 1 & 2

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.

The speaker opens the first verse of the poem by explaining how a “ball will bounce.” However, the bounce diminishes over time. The “earth” falls in “our hearts from brilliance,” much like how the ball loves to fall but later “resents its resilience.”

Even while something could begin wonderfully well and with a lot of passion, it will eventually decline. Due to this, we require “a sky-blue juggler with five red balls” in order to retain the soaring nature of the red balls and guarantee that one is intrigued and motivated.

The balls “graze his finger ends” and “cling” to the juggler in the second stanza, indicating that he has perfect control over it. The balls tumble around in the air on his “wheeling hands” while he “shakes up our gravity.”

The balls discover that there is more to life than gravity.   The “small heaven around his ears” that the balls circle is likened to a solar system of planets. They are governed by a new force that momentarily shields them from gravity’s impacts.

Stanza 3 & 4

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.

The speaker claims in the third stanza that the juggler reels in “heaven” and trades it up for “a broom, a plate, a table” by bringing the balls in.   He lifts ordinary items both literally and figuratively. They develop beyond what they were previously. They enthral the “boys” and “girls” by sitting on his nose, balancing on the end of the broom, and dancing.

Those boys and girls are a component of the collective “we” that the speaker has been pondering. The show they saw has left them speechless. This show is soon over and everything comes back to the ground.

Stanza 5

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.

Even when the performance is completed and the juggler has put the  items back to their original positions, nothing is quite the same. Even when gloom and monotony descend upon these things, the juggler’s tricks will still sparkle. We clap our hands in response to what he did, or “we batter our hands.”

The juggler was successful in winning “for once over the world’s weight.” He was able to push against and resist the weight of the earth.  He transformed a dull item into something remarkable.