Grouped with Robert Penn Warren, Merrill Moore, Allen Tate, and Donald Davidson as one of the original Fugitive Agrarians, an influential circle of Southern scholars, critics, and poets, he was the most distinguished critic and editor of his age. He studied at home with his father during his childhood, when the family moved among four parishes. Ransom was tops in his high school class, completed two years at Vanderbilt University, then left to teach middle grades in Taylorsville, Mississippi, and Latin and Greek at Haynes-McLean School in Lewisburg, Tennessee. Ransom was eager to get back to scholarship and completed a B.
On "Dead Boy" F. Matthiessen This poem displays all the aspects of his skill in their full development. By choosing the very kind of theme upon which the nineteenth century spilled out its worst sentimental excesses, it is as though he deliberately set out to demonstrate his complete break with the Southern romantic past.
The diction works upon us in the ways we have already noted, but here the occasional elaborate-pedantic words are introduced into the very first rhyme for a shock of wit that makes us aware at once through the odd dryness that we are faced with no conventionally moist poem on the death of a little cousin.
The unobtrusive thoroughness with which Ransom presents a whole way of life and its milieu can be sampled through the deft off-setting of "the county kin" against all the rest of the world as "outer dark.
Phrase after phrase from "the green bough" through "outer dark," the "cloud full of storms," the "sword beneath his mother's heart," to the "late branch wrenched away" are either direct or indirect allusions to the rich King James version.
The prevalence of that source in traditional country speech accounts for the mingling in that speech of the simple and the archaic, a mingling which Ransom seems consciously to emulate even in phrases which have no direct connection with the Scriptures.
Such mingling gives rise in particular to the quiet compelling eloquence of the fourth stanza where the simple "box of death" is suddenly more forceful than the expected "coffin" could be; and where the archaic unfamiliar "bruit" is by its very unfamiliarity made to release its full store, not only of the "rumors" of the day, but of the very breath and sound of the old men voicing them.
But lest Ransom's combination of the homely and the learned be made to sound too deliberate, we must remember how his diction is always being spiced by the easily colloquial: The irony is complex: A pig with a pasty face, so I had said.
He was pale and little, the foolish neighbors say: The first fruits, saith the Preacher, the Lord hath taken; But this was the old tree's late branch wrenched away, Grieving the sapless limbs, the shorn and shaken. Wasserman Ransom's critics have emphasized the affinity of his irony to metaphysical wit, its ability of stiffening "soft" subjects rather than softening stiff ones.
The attention given to Ransom's poems on the death of children is indicative of this tendency. It is of course true that a part of the irony of "Bells for John Whiteside's Daughter" and "Dead Boy" depends upon the contrast between the stock response to the subject and Ransom's attitude toward it.
The latter poem, for instance, begins with an objective view of "a boy not beautiful, nor good, nor clever," A black cloud full of storms too hot for keeping, A sword beneath his mother's heart But the poet's attitude toward the boy is not left at that; nor, I maintain, is it modified merely by the rhetoric of the poem.
The awareness of an irony that is deeper than the contrasts between certain words is inevitable--as I have already indicated--to Ransom's peculiar position as ironist. The poet's attitude is qualified and humanized by the boy's relationship to something for which the poet feels a more tender, although controlled, nostalgia, "a noble house": The first fruits, saith the Preacher, the Lord hath taken; But this was the old tree's late branch wrenched away.
And supporting the modification of this irony--the irony dependent upon the contrast between "first-fruits" and "late branch"--is the shift in point of view implied in the first line of the third stanza "A pig with a pasty face, so I had said"from that implied in the opening stanza:Complete summary of John Crowe Ransom's Dead Boy.
eNotes plot summaries cover all the significant action of Dead Boy. “Dead Boy” describes the significance of a young boy's death to his family. An Analysis of John Crowe Ransom's Dead Boy PAGES 1. WORDS View Full Essay.
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Gregory dressed and gurgled as he recrystallized or slithered astrinely. Ransom keeps "Dead Boy" free from sentimentality by sustaining a fiction that allows for a consistent undermining of the boy's character or intrinsic importance.
The use of the narrator from "outer dark" is a meticulous justification for this severe objectivity at a time . It is of course true that a part of the irony of "Bells for John Whiteside's Daughter" and "Dead Boy" depends upon the contrast between the stock response to the subject and Ransom's attitude toward it.
John Crowe Ransom (April 30, – July 3, ) was an American educator, scholar, literary critic, poet, essayist and editor. He is considered to be a founder of the New Criticism school of literary criticism.
As a faculty member at Kenyon College, he was the first editor of the widely regarded Kenyon Review. Highly respected as a teacher.