Poets Have Chanted Mortality

By John Crowe Ransom 1888–1974
It had better been hidden
    But the Poets inform:
We are chattel and liege
    Of an undying Worm.

Were you, Will, disheartened,
    When all Stratford’s gentry
Left their Queen and took service
    In his low-lying country?

How many white cities
    And grey fleets on the storm
Have proud-builded, hard-battled,
    For this undying Worm?

Was a sweet chaste lady
    Would none of her lover.
Nay, here comes the Lewd One,
    Creeps under her cover!

Have ye said there’s no deathless
     Of face, fashion, form,
Forgetting to honor
     The extent of the Worm?

O ye laughers and light-lipped,
    Ye faithless, infirm,
I can tell you who’s constant,
    ’Tis the Eminent Worm.

Ye shall trip on no limits,
    Neither time ye your term,
In the realms of His Absolute
    Highness the Worm.

from The Fugitive, 1922

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Poet John Crowe Ransom 1888–1974

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Fugitive

Subjects Living, Death, Time & Brevity, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 John Crowe Ransom

Biography

John Crowe Ransom was one of the leading poets of his generation. A highly respected teacher and critic, Ransom was intimately connected to the early twentieth-century literary movement known as the Fugitives,  later the Southern Agrarians. Around the year 1915, a group of fifteen or so Vanderbilt University teachers and students began meeting informally to discuss trends in American life and literature. Led by John Crowe . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Time & Brevity, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Fugitive

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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