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The Ballad Of The Children Of The Czar Analysis

Author: poem of Delmore Schwartz Type: poem Views: 2

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The children of the Czar

Played with a bouncing ball

In the May morning, in the Czar's garden,

Tossing it back and forth.

It fell among the flowerbeds

Or fled to the north gate.

A daylight moon hung up

In the Western sky, bald white.

Like Papa's face, said Sister,

Hurling the white ball forth.


While I ate a baked potato

Six thousand miles apart,

In Brooklyn, in 1916,

Aged two, irrational.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt

Was an Arrow Collar ad.

O Nicholas! Alas! Alas!

My grandfather coughed in your army,

Hid in a wine-stinking barrel,

For three days in Bucharest

Then left for America

To become a king himself.



I am my father's father,

You are your children's guilt.

In history's pity and terror

The child is Aeneas again;

Troy is in the nursery,

The rocking horse is on fire.

Child labor! The child must carry

His fathers on his back.

But seeing that so much is past

And that history has no ruth

For the individual,

Who drinks tea, who catches cold,

Let anger be general:

I hate an abstract thing.


Brother and sister bounced

The bounding, unbroken ball,

The shattering sun fell down

Like swords upon their play,

Moving eastward among the stars

Toward February and October.

But the Maywind brushed their cheeks

Like a mother watching sleep,

And if for a moment they fight

Over the bouncing ball

And sister pinches brother

And brother kicks her shins,

Well! The heart of man in known:

It is a cactus bloom.



The ground on which the ball bounces

Is another bouncing ball.

The wheeling, whirling world

Makes no will glad.

Spinning in its spotlight darkness,

It is too big for their hands.

A pitiless, purposeless Thing,

Arbitrary, and unspent,

Made for no play, for no children,

But chasing only itself.

The innocent are overtaken,

They are not innocent.

They are their father's fathers,

The past is inevitable.



Now, in another October

Of this tragic star,

I see my second year,

I eat my baked potato.

It is my buttered world,

But, poked by my unlearned hand,

It falls from the highchair down

And I begin to howl

And I see the ball roll under

The iron gate which is locked.

Sister is screaming, brother is howling,

The ball has evaded their will.

Even a bouncing ball

Is uncontrollable,

And is under the garden wall.

I am overtaken by terror

Thinking of my father's fathers,

And of my own will.


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