Cummings calls the balloon man "lame" (4), "queer" (11), and "goat-footed" (20). Supported by the first two adjectives, “goat-footed” alludes to Greek Satyrs, particularly to Pan, half-man, half-goat, the Greek god of nature and legendary inventor of the panpipes. When Pan blew his pipes in the spring, all the little creatures of the field and wood came running. Thus cummings's city scene reenacts ancient ritual, and “the queer old balloonman" ushers in the season that begins life anew as he has done each spring since the beginning.
This mythological allusion enriches the meaning of
the poem by suggesting that beneath this simple world is a much more
complex one. The goat-footedness implies something evil and seductive. The
balloonman has a peculiar, ominous power over the children. They stop
everything, running and dancing to see him. On one level, of course, it is
not surprising for children to greet a neighborhood visitor who sells
balloons. Yet Cummings’s allusion to the satyrs of Greek mythology is
disturbing. Although it is accurate to think of Pan as celebrating the
birth of spring, satyrs certainly carry other associations. These
creatures, who enjoyed wild merrymaking, were humanlike gods with goats'
features. The “wild merrymaking” they enjoyed was often of a sexual
nature. The American Heritage Dictionary defines "Satyr"
not only as a woodland creature depicted as having the pointed ears, legs,
and short horns of a goat; but also as a lecher (hence the phrase
"that old goat"). Indeed, it is the root word for the term to
describe excessive and often uncontrollable sexual desire in a male: