A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Monday, March 22, 2010

Poem of the Day: John Crowe Ransom

Here Lies a Lady


Here lies a lady of beauty and high degree,
Of chills and fever she died, of fever and chills,
The delight of her husband, an aunt, an infant of three
And medicos marveling sweetly on her ills. 


First she was hot, and her brightest eyes would blaze
And the speed of her flying fingers shook their heads. 
What was she making? God knows; she sat in those days 
With her newest gowns all torn, or snipt into shreds. 


But that would pass, and the fire of her cheeks decline 
Till she lay dishonored and wan like a rose overblown, 
And would not open her eyes, to kisses, to wine; 
The sixth of which states was final. The cold came down. 


Fair ladies, long may you bloom, and sweetly may thole!
She was part lucky. With flowers and lace and mourning,
With love and bravado, we bade God rest her soul 
After six quick turns of quaking, six of burning.
--John Crowe Ransom


Ransom belonged to a group of literati that gathered at Vanderbilt University in the 1920s and called themselves "the Fugitives." It was a pretty distinguished bunch, but also a provincial one, doing its thing far from the literary center of the country, and some of its members, such as Donald Davidson, were so reactionary that they fell out with the more progressive ones, like Robert Penn Warren, during the Civil Rights era. Ransom's voice is that of the Southern gentleman, a type not much honored these days, and his archaisms ("snipt," "thole") strike some people as precious (in the bad sense). But maybe it's my Mississippi roots showing, for I feel soothed and delighted when I read him.