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On "Bells for John Whiteside's Daughter" Robert Penn Warren Now the peculiar effect of this admirable little poem is largely implied in the words astonishes and vexed. First, simple grief is not the content of the primary statement. We are astonished at this event, which, though common to nature, has upset our human calculation.
Second, it is not a poem whose aim is unvarnished pathos of recollection. Third, the resolution of the grief is not on a compensatory basis, as is common in the elegy formula.
It is something more modest. The word vexed indicates its nature: We are shaken, but not as a leaf. From "John Crowe Ransom: A Study in Irony. There was such speed in her little body, And such lightness in her footfall, It is no wonder her brown study Astonishes us all.
Robert Penn Warren points out that it is the words "astonishes" and "vexed" which are pivotal to the pathos of the poem. I should add to this the colloquial term "brown study," which is domestic and yet foreign to the nature of childhood, which is all "speed" and "lightness.
Bradford This Ransom poem is, as its title suggests, a miniature but highly traditional elegy. The five quatrains follow, as a structure, the three-stage progression which is a convention of the genre: And, again in accordance with the convention, the concluding consolation is developed directly and organically out of the context established by the reactions to the girl's death which immediately precede it.
The opening quatrain, because the title of the poem relieves it of the obligation of stating the occasion of the elegy, the death of Mr. There was such speed in her little body, And such lightness in her footfall, It is no wonder that her brown study Astonishes us all.
The recollections of the child's vivacity and grace which make the stillness and abstracted or vacuous appearance of her dead body disturbing, identified in these verses as the provocation of grief, are presented fully in the three following quatrains which make up the second section of the poem.
Together, in the language of high chivalric romance, they validate the explanation of collective sorrow far more effectively than could any exclamatory lamentation or full-throated Miltonic remonstrance against harsh fate.
For the substance of human grief at the loss of those beloved is memory; and the most natural thing to remember about a dead child when in the presence of its mortal remains is the seemingly "tireless heart" with which it once conducted the petty affairs in the language of the romances, "wars" of its life.
The image of quest or knightly conflict suggested by the idiom Ransom applies to the remembered adventures of the little "goose girl" is likewise appropriate to the function of this section of the poem as the second and lamentory division of a three-part elegiac structure. According to the conventions of the elegy, it is not at all indecorous to express grief at the death of the subject through a recitation of his adventures, a recitation which will normally stress those qualities which he revealed in life that make of his death a loss to those who mourn.
Ransom's evocation of "wars. The fantasies which children enact in anticipation or imitation of the business of adult life may amuse us as we observe them; they can but play at making war.
But these fantasies take on a different and in this case, suitable coloring when remembered in so funereal a context as that given them by this poem. The word "ready" in the first line of stanza five marks it as the climax of an elegiac sequence: In stanzas two, three, and four we are made to understand why.
But the placement of line seventeen of the poem forces us to look at its first four quatrains and to ask how they explain the "readiness" of the bereaved, who were before "astonished" and "unready," to ask what has changed their mood and prepared them to complete the obsequies for which they have gathered; it raises the question of how sorrow at death may be assuaged by forceful expression of that selfsame sorrow.
And, at the same time, it forces us to recognize in the structure of the entire poem the pattern of the traditional elegy. The movement from section two to section three in the elegiac pattern appears to be, in the case of "Bells for John Whiteside's Daughter," forced and poetically unearned.
But on re-examination from the perspective afforded us by line seventeen, Ransom's strategy in embodying consolation in the raw material of grief itself becomes apparent. The dead girl put the mourners in mind of the girl alive; and the contrast between the two, which serves first to explain what is astonishing about the child's corpse, comes then in immemorial fashion to offer what is perhaps the oldest and most natural of all consolations, that provided by the changed and "uninhabited" appearance of the corpse.
The "brown study" propped before the mourners is not recognizable as the "tireless. Or, to take "ready" another way, and to explain in accordance with pagan or classical practice the consolation offered by memory to those gathered before a child's body, special significance may be attached to the "Alas" line twelve of the geese harried by the "little lady," to the "rod" with which she "took arms" and disturbed their "apple dreams," and to the general description of her activities while yet alive as a conflict with "her shadow" lines six and seven.
In the classical elegy the question of an afterlife does not usually arise; reactions to bereavement are conditioned by emphasis upon the naturalness of death, its part in the great cycle of life from which all good and fruitfulness are derived. Always nature as order, as life giving and inevitable, is affirmed.
The geese, after the fashion of animals in the ballads, may have been preternaturally wise in seeing an ill omen in Miss Whiteside's contention with shadows.Although John Crowe Ransom's "Bells for John Whiteside's Daughter" has been widely admired and anthologized since its publication in , commentators seem to have had difficulty describing, in this instance, the nature of the poet's achievement.
"Bells for John Whiteside's Daughter" - "The most general thing to be said about John Crowe Ransom is that he is a dualist" (Buffington 1). He believed that man must be content with the duality of all things. Apr 26, · If you order your research paper from our custom writing service you will receive a perfectly written assignment on Bells for John Whiteside's daughter.
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Bells for John Whiteside's Daughter by John Crowe Ransom Words Feb 23rd, 3 Pages As a poet, essayist, and teacher at Vanderbilt University and Kenyon College, Ransom was one of the prominent leaders of the Fugitive Agrarians and the founder of the New Criticism school of literary criticism and the literary journal, Kenyon Review.
"Bells for John Whiteside's Daughter" - "The most general thing to be said about John Crowe Ransom is that he is a dualist" (Buffington 1). He believed that man must be content with the duality of all things.