Selected Poems by John Crowe Ransom
Table of Contents
Prometheus in Straits
And priest to pray-
Belly that groans
Of its long thirst-pains,
It is all that remains
Of the Grandgousier.
You fitted his muzzle,
You voided his guzzle.
You shall have crowns
And angel's gowns.
Your delicate snout
Had nigh snuffed out
When the member observed 'em:
Bitters and stout,
And cider at spout,
And the wenches that served 'em
Each spidery chink
Was a freshet of drinkables,
Was a sound of unthinkables,
Your clerical ear
Crack-cracked to hear.
Get water, and ice it,
And give him, you say?
Lemon, and slice it,
Sugar, and spice it,
Weary is weary,
But it's O to be beery,
And rolling away!
Will you give him to guzzle,
A sponge from a jar
Of the rank vinegar?
For to sip where he lies,
Till he ups and dies--
And this is his day--
Till the pink puffed eyes
See the old paradise
Of the Grandgousier.
from The Fugitive, Volume II, Number 5. February-March, 1923.
Captain Carpenter rose up in his prime
Put on his pistols and went riding out
But had got well-nigh nowhere at that time
Till he fell in with ladies in a rout.
It was a pretty lady and all her train
That played with him so sweetly but before
An hour she'd taken a sword with all her main
And twined him of his nose forevermore.
Captain Carpenter mounted another day
And straightway rode into a surly rogue
That looked unchristian but be that as may
The captain did not wait upon prologue.
But drew upon him out of his great heart
The other swung against him with a club
And cracked his two legs at the shinny part
And let him roll and stick like any tub.
Captain Carpenter rode many a time
From male and female took he sundry harms
And met the wife of Satan crying "I'm
The she-wolf bids you shall bear no more arms."
Their strokes and counters whistled in the wind
I would he had delivered half his blows
But where she should have made off like a hind
The bitch bit off his arms at the elbows.
Captain Carpenter parted with his ears
To a surly rogue that used him in this wise
0 Jesus ere his threescore and ten years
Another had pinched out his sweet blue eyes.
Captain Carpenter got up on his roan
And sallied from the gate for hells despite
I heard him asking in the grimmest tone
If any enemies yet there were to fight?
"Is there an adversary drunk with fame
Who will risk to be wounded by my tongue
Or burnt in two beneath my red heart's flame
These are the perils he is cast among.
"But if he can he has a pretty choice
From an anatomy with little to lose
Whether he cut my tongue and take my voice
Or whether it be my round red heart he choose."
It was the neatest knave that ever was seen
Stepping in perfume from his lady's bower
Who on this word put in his merry mien
And fell on Captain Carpenter like a tower.
I would not knock old fellows in the dust
But there lay Captain Carpenter on his back
His weapons were the stout heart in his bust
And a blade shook between rotten teeth alack.
The rogue in scarlet and grey soon knew his mind
He wished to get his trophy and depart
With gentle apology and touch refined
He pierced him and produced the captain's heart.
God's mercy rest on Captain Carpenter now
I thought him sirs an honest gentleman
Citizen husband soldier and scholar enow
Let jangling kites eat of him if they can.
But God's deep curses follow after those
That shore him of his goodly nose and ears
His legs and strong arms at the two elbows
And eyes that had not watered seventy years.
The curse of hell upon the sleek upstart
That got the captain finally on his back
And took the red red vitals of his heart
And made the kites to whet their beaks clack clack.
from The Fugitive, Volume III, Number 1. February 1924.
Prometheus in Straits
Garrulous gentlemen on a verandah,
Bibbers or non-bibbers of illicit potations,
Rehearsing the acta and the agenda
Of Republican or Democratic administrations,
I am not committed to taking memoranda
Culled from the lacunae of your cerebrations.
And now approaches the radiant band, all spinster,
White spirits weaving a delirious rhythm of chatter
Of picture galleries and of Westminster--
But my sad, alas, insensitivity is too utter,
I attend you as some tired jungle monster:
The parrots' bonnets are annulled by the tedium of their chatter.
To the library then to view the masterpieces?
Not now, though I risk the damage of your inference,
For before their alterations respect ceases:
Their glowing centers you have laid over with absurd circumference,
Indeed you have undone them with exegesis,
And provoke me to a gesture not of deference.
Though I be Prometheus my wits wandered
To bring my pious offices unto this people.
Where all must be the teachers nullity is engendered,
My doctrine perishes crying for an ear that is simple,
The prophet is solicited before he has well thundered
And escapes with credit if he do not turn disciple.
My function concerns itself however with this planet,
My act is simple as an incident of vegetation,
I will go then to a streamside abounding with granite
Or gaunt place with no history nor human condition,
And having unbuttoned myself erect an altar on it
And comfort my knees with red bruises of prostration.
from The Fugitive Volume III. Number 1. February 1924.
The Queens of Hell had lissome necks to crane
At the tall girl approaching with long tread
And, when she had caught up even with them, nodded:
"If the young miss with gold hair might not disdain,
We would esteem her company over the plain,
To profit us all where the dogs will be out barking;
And we'll walk by the windows where the young men are working
And tomorrow we will all come home again."
But the Queen of Heaven who had advanced and stood
In the likeness, I hear, of a fine motherly woman
Made a wry face, despite it was so common
To be worsted by the shrewd ladies of hell,
And crisped her sweet tongue: "This never will come to good:--
Just an old woman, my pet, that wishes you well."
from The Fugitive. Volume III. Number 2. April 1924.
Beautifully Janet slept
Till it was deeply morning. She woke them
And thought about her dainty-feathered hen,
To see how it had kept.
One kiss she gave her mother,
Only a small one gave she to her daddy
Who would have kissed each curl of his shining baby;
No kiss at all for her brother.
"Old Chucky, old Chucky!" she cried,
Running on little pink feet upon the grass
To Chucky's house, and listening. But alas,
Her Chucky had died.
It was a transmogrifying bee
Came droning down on Chucky's bald old head
And sat and put the poison. It scarcely bled,
But how exceedingly
And purply did the knot
Swell with the venom and communicate
Its rigor. Now the poor comb stood up straight.
But Chucky did not.
So there was Janet
Kneeling on the wet grass, crying her brown hen
(Translated far beyond the prayers of men)
To rise and walk upon it.
And weeping fast as she had breath
Janet implored us, "Wake her from her sleep!"
And would not be instructed in how deep
Was the forgetful kingdom of Death.
from The Fugitive Volume IV, Number 3. September 1925.