By John Crowe Ransom
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.
John Crowe Ransom, "Janet Waking" from Selected Poems, Third Edition, Revised and Enlarged. Copyright © 1924, 1927 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc and renewed 1952, 1955 by John Crow Ransom. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved.
Source: Selected Poems Third Edition (Alfred A. Knopf, 1978)
Poet and Critic John Crowe Ransom grew up in Tennessee and attended Oxford and Vanderbilt University, where he taught for many decades. Though his career as a poet was short—most of his poems were published in a three year period—he enjoyed acclaim throughout his life. His short, traditional lyric poems, often filled with wit and irony, use both mythological allusions and situations from everyday life to examine the metaphysical difficulties of love and death. In poems such as “Janet Waking” he shows the instability of life and the difficulty of understanding its changes.
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