I “met” John Crowe Ransom when I took a course in Modern Southern Literature (exclusive of Faulkner) with Dr Louis Cowan at the University of Dallas. There are three poems I always think of in connection with him. They all involve children and death. Perhaps it’s a bit macabre that they are my favorite of his poems; but there it is.
Bells for John Whiteside’s Daughter
By John Crowe Ransom
There was such speed in her little body,
And such lightness in her footfall,
It is no wonder her brown study
Astonishes us all.
Her wars were bruited in our high window.
We looked among orchard trees and beyond
Where she took arms against her shadow,
Or harried unto the pond
The lazy geese, like a snow cloud
Dripping their snow on the green grass,
Tricking and stopping, sleepy and proud,
Who cried in goose, Alas,
For the tireless heart within the little
Lady with rod that made them rise
From their noon apple-dreams and scuttle
Goose-fashion under the skies!
But now go the bells, and we are ready,
In one house we are sternly stopped
To say we are vexed at her brown study,
Lying so primly propped.
John Crowe Ransom, “Bells for John Whiteside’s Daughter” from Selected Poems, Revised and Enlarged Edition. Copyright 1924, 1927, 1934, 1939, 1945, © 1962, 1963 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. via Poetry Foundation