Bells for John Whiteside’s Daughter By: Luis Jasso Alejandro Alfaro Kevin Gonzalez Chris Hernandez
BIO JOHN CROWE RANSOM • John Crowe Ransom born in April, 30 1888-July 1974. • Poet and critic, was born in Pulaski, Tennessee, the son of John James Ransom, a Methodist minister. • John was raised in a strongly religious though also very open-minded household. • Ransom entered Vanderbilt University in Nashville at age fifteen. • He went on to study classics as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford from 1910 to 1913. • Ransom's original interest lay more in philosophy than in literature. • Ransom married Robb Reavill, the couple had three children. • He was in service as an artillery officer in France during World War I, remained there until his departure for Kenyon College in Ohio in 1937.
Bells for John Whiteside’s Daughter • "Bells for John Whiteside's Daughter" is an elegy, a poem that reflects on a person's death or on death in general. It consists of five stanzas, each with four lines. • The poem opens with an “amazement” and the tone changes to a reflective tone and a realization that they are experiencing. • The poem reflects on the impact that unexpected death has on life by describing the death of a once lively young girl, once loud and energetic but now silent. • The poem consists of five four line stanzas with an ABAB rhyme schemes, In each stanza, the first line rhymes with the third, and the second rhymes with the fourth. • The meter is Anapest; A metrical foot composed of two short syllables followed by one long one, as in the word seventeen. • The poem personifies the ideas that our lives must end at some point even if we feel happy and full of life.
First Stanza “There was such speed in her little body , And such lightness in her footfall It is no wonder her brown study Astonishes us all”. • "Bells" is an elegy strangely derived of sadness, and what of it is there seems to be more over the loss of childhood than of a child. • The speaker is amazed, surprised, and caught off guard by the girl's sudden passing; he is almost thunderstruck by the contrast between the speedy little girl and the "brown study" into which she has fallen. The root meaning of astonished is "thunderstruck"; and brown study -- a euphemism for death which means "a morose, serious, or heavy mood" – this certainly captures the shocking contrast between the light-hearted living child and the "primly propped" corpse laid out in the old-fashioned home burial style of the early 20th Century. • Enjambement: Line 3
Second Stanza • “Her wars were bruited in our high window We looked among orchard trees and beyond Where she took arms against her shadow, Or harried unto the pond” • This little girl would make war with her shadow and sometimes rouse sleepy geese, which were no doubt dreaming of eating apples from a nearby orchard, and chase them across the green grass and into a pond. • Enjambement: lines 2,4
Third Stanza • “The lazy geese, like a snow cloud Dripping their snow on the green grass, Tricking and stopping, sleepy and proud, Who cried in goose, Alas,” • The green grass appears to symbolize life. The sleepy geese-and the comparison of their feathers to snow-may symbolize death. • The little girl, who is full of life, chases the geese into the pond. Her action suggests that she, like most children, does not dwell on death and does not show any fear of death. • Enjambement: Line 1
Fourth Stanza • “For the tireless heart within the little lady with rod that made them rise From their noon apple-dreams and scuttle Goose fashion under the skies • When it mentions the girl’s tireless heart, it’s meant to be ironic because she has now passed on. • And this event has made the people rise or awaken, from their “apple-dreams” which are dreams of prosperity and of happiness. This little girl’s tragedy serves as an epiphany to the people, that life can end unexpectedly. • Enjambement: line 1,2,3
Fifth Stanza • “But now go the bells, and we are ready, In one house we are sternly stopped To say we are vexed at her brown study, Lying so primly popped”. • When the funeral bells toll, the neighbors are “vexed” (line 19) that a child who was only recently so full of life is now a silent, “primly propped” and primly propped means to be acted on, almost being seen as a prop. • “Vexed” means troubled irritated, or even angry” • As the poem ends, the church bells are trolling all the people are ready to attempt to offer consolation for such loss. • When John says ‘we are sternly stopped “we are vexed” and her brown study astonishes us all.” • This shows We may not be suffering the profound anguish of the little girls parents, but we are all shocked and resentful every time the death of such a child as this occurs. • Enjambement: Line 2
Theme/ Setting • The theme of the poem is that an unexpected death jolts people into confronting the fragility of life and the inscrutability of the forces that end life. Although they may mourn the loss of the spirited presence on the grass outdoors, they also mourn for themselves in the realization that they too are mortal and that they too will one day become a “brown study” • The poem personifies the ideas that our lives must end at some point even if we feel full of live and happy. • The setting probably takes place in the rural South. (Ransom was born in the small town of Pulaski, Tennessee.) The time is the early 1920s.
Summary of the poem • The death of a lively little girl shocks neighbors who used to observe her while she was outdoors. She was always so energetic and so full of noise and mischief. Playfully, she would make war against her shadow and sometimes rouse sleepy geese—which were no doubt dreaming of eating apples from a nearby orchard—and chase them across the green grass and into a pond. When the funeral bells toll, the neighbors are “vexed” (line 19) that a child who was only recently so full of life is now a silent, “primly propped”
Questions • 1. what were the little girl’s “wars” ? • 2. what does the Lazy geese, like a snow cloud mean in this poem ? • 3. When was John Crowe Ransom born ? • 4. What do bells symbolize ? • 5. What's the theme of the poem ? • 6. In what lines are there enjambments ? • 7. What does ( Vexed ) mean ? • 8. What is the Rhyme scheme of the poem ? • 9. What is the meter of the poem ? • 10. What does the poem personify?