John Crowe Ransom

30 April 1888 - 3 July 1974 / Pulaski Tennessee


THERE'S a patch of trees at the edge of the field,
And a brown little house that is kept so warm,
And a woman waiting by the hearth
Who still keeps most of a woman's charm.
She traffics in her woman's goods
And is my woman of affairs.
Yet not so fast, my moral men,
November's most poetic airs
Are heavy with old lovers' tales,
How hearths are holy with their prayers,
How women give their fragrance up
And give their love to the man that dares.
Now who goes heedless hearing that?
At last we trade, we laissez-faires.
O moralizers, it is hard
When I am not a candidate
For holy wedlock's offices,
That mother has picked me out a mate,
And couldn't have made a sorrier choice
Than that same Smiley's daughter Kate,
Who prays for the sinners of the town
And never comes to meeting late,
Who sings soprano in the choir
And swallows Christian doctrine straight.
Of all the girls deliver me
From the girl you haven't the heart to hate!
Piety: O what a hideous thing!
And thirty-odd pounds she's underweight.
The winds of late November droop
(Poor little failures) very low,
As up and down the farm they pass,
Pass up and down, and to and fro,
And look for a home they are not to find,
For they were homeless years ago..
But years ago I knew a girl,
Beautiful, fit for a Grand Vizier's,
A girl with laughing on her lips
And in her eyes the quickest tears,
And low of speech, as when one finds
A mother cooing to her dears.
I took the note into my heart,
And so did other cavaliers.
If God had heard my prayer then,
The good folk couldn't point and say
As mother says they're pointing now:
Behold, one stands in the sinners' way!
The stiffest sceptic bends his neck
And stands on no more vain parley
If such as she would have him come,
Worship with her in the Baptist way,
Accept the fables as he can,
A Jewish God, a Passion Play;
And such a lover never comes
To fondling dirty drabs for pay.
But God had another man for her,
He cannot answer all that pray.
November winds are weak and cold,
They lie at last beneath the blue
And sleep in the fields as cold as they.
I know but one good thing to do,
So hearken, all ye mutineers:
Every man to his rendezvous!
My woman waits by the hearth, I say,
And what is a scarlet woman to you?
Her sins are scarlet if you will,
Her lips are hardly of that hue,
And many a time I've seen her sit
Beside the hearth an hour or two,
And set the pot upon the fire
And wait until she's spoken to.
A hateful owl is roosting near
Who mocks my woman, Hoo, Hoo, Hoo,
But the pot sings back just as shrill as it can,
And the angry fire-log crashes through;
And there the woman waits and I,
ponder the ways of God--and rue!
157 Total read