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Symbol Analysis

Many critics compare the balloonman to Pan, the half-man, half-goat god of the satyrs. In fact, the entire collection of Chansons Inocentes out of which "in Just-" comes features repeated references to the "goat-footed" old man who dominates the scene in our poem. What difference does it make if the balloonman actually is Pan (and not just some elderly gentleman from the street)? Well, for one thing, Pan’s usually associated with sexuality and desire. That’s not really the sort of stuff you want to have around innocent little kids, is it?

  • Lines 3-5: Although these lines start to build a complex allusion to Pan, it’s not yet obvious that he’s anything more than an old man.
  • Lines 11-13: The imagery that builds up around the balloonman is surprisingly vague: "queer" and "old" doesn’t give us much to build an imaginary picture of the guy with. Oh, and these lines are a repetition of the images that we get in 3-5.
  • Lines 19-23: Offsetting the word "goat-footed" by giving it its own line, Cummings makes sure that we catch the allusion to Pan.

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