Form and Structure

Unlike many of the other poems in the set, Paterson does not use a set structure for The Ferryman’s Arms. There are rhymes and half-rhymes such as Guinness / phosphorescence and cowl/ cue-ball. These work to hold the poem together, creating a sense that everything fits together and has been predestined. In the same way that the speaker is lured towards the pool table involuntarily.

The first stanza is the longest and establishes the central idea of the pool game while drawing a parallel between death and how we regard it. The speaker pots the black ball that did the vanishing trick which makes us think of the mystery of death. The ball travels downwards into the intestinal rumble of the faded pool table.

Stanza two is shorter in length and tells us of the boat that arrives to take the speaker away. He must leave the game before it is played out. The boat can be seen as a reminder of the ferry used to transport the dead souls to the Underworld. The second stanza therefore consolidates the central theme of death which is initiated in stanza one.

The poem ends with losing opponent... knocking the balls in for practice, for next time – the repetition emphatically implying that death will come for all of us.