I think this is my favorite of Ransome’s poems. When I read it I am transported back almost twenty years to my Traditions of Lyric Poetry class with Dr Wegemer. I still love that word “transmogrifying,” which I first read in a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon when Calvin makes a transmogrifier out of a cardboard box, some of Calvin’s precociousness thus seems to transfer to Janet in my mind. But there are just so many things I love about this little poem: “deeply morning” “dainty-feathered.” The kiss she refuses her brother. “Running across the world on the grass” “put the poison.” Really, just the whole thing. So simple and profound.
by John Crowe Ransome
Beautifully Janet slept
Till it was deeply morning. She woke then
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 across the world 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 old bald 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 rigour! 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 daughters 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.