John Crowe Ransom, recognized as poet, social critic, and literary critic, has in this book published forty of his best poems. The slender volume has been culled principally from two earlier volumes, CHILLS AND FEVER (1924) and TWO GENTLEMEN IN BONDS (1927), with the last five poems having appeared previously only in periodicals. No poems have been included from his earliest volume, POEMS ABOUT GOD (1919). The arrangement is chronological.
Though neither a prolific nor a popular poet, Ransom, through his variety, freshness, and elegance, has won a distinguished place in American poetry. In the few poems of this volume there is ample evidence of distinction in his sensitive lyricism, his adept narratives and character portraits, and his skillful use of wit and irony.
Ransom the scholar is apparent in nearly all of the poems. The polysyllabic vocabulary and occasional use of archaisms such as “thole,” the remote allusions, and the use of ellipses and slant rhyme are characteristic of a poet writing for mature readers, unwilling to condescend to popular taste. At times the stumbling blocks seem unwarranted, like playful, mocking jokes on the reader, and the charge of obscurity, particularly in some of the later poems, is justified. However, in the majority of the poems the obstacles are not insurmountable and the reader’s effort is well rewarded.
Conclusions are never explicitly stated by Ransom;...
(The entire section is 1415 words.)
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