Friday, March 25, 2011

Captain Carpenter / John Crowe Ransom

To commence the nudging of thought and mood back to the literature of the early 20th century, here for your consideration is an interesting poem published in 1924, the year before Mrs. Dalloway:

Captain Carpenter rose up in his prime
    Put on his pistols and went riding out
But had got well-nigh nowhere at that time
    Till he fell in with ladies in a rout.

It was a pretty lady and all her train
    That played with him so sweetly but before
An hour she'd taken a sword with all her main
    And twined him of his nose forevermore.

Captain Carpenter mounted another day
    And straightway rode into a surly rogue
That looked unchristian but be that as may
    The captain did not wait upon prologue.

But drew upon him out of his great heart
    The other swung against him with a club
And cracked his two legs at the shinny part
    And let him roll and stick like any tub.

Captain Carpenter rode many a time
    From male and female took he sundry harms
And met the wife of Satan crying "I'm
    The she-wolf bids you shall bear no more arms."

Their strokes and counters whistled in the wind
    I would he had delivered half his blows
But where she should have made off like a hind
    The bitch bit off his arms at the elbows.

Captain Carpenter parted with his ears
    To a surly rogue that used him in this wise
0 Jesus ere his threescore and ten years
    Another had pinched out his sweet blue eyes.

Captain Carpenter got up on his roan
    And sallied from the gate for hells despite
I heard him asking in the grimmest tone
    If any enemies yet there were to fight?

"Is there an adversary drunk with fame
    Who will risk to be wounded by my tongue
Or burnt in two beneath my red heart's flame
    These are the perils he is cast among.

"But if he can he has a pretty choice
    From an anatomy with little to lose
Whether he cut my tongue and take my voice
    Or whether it be my round red heart he choose."

It was the neatest knave that ever was seen
    Stepping in perfume from his lady's bower
Who on this word put in his merry mien
    And fell on Captain Carpenter like a tower.

I would not knock old fellows in the dust
    But there lay Captain Carpenter on his back
His weapons were the stout heart in his bust
    And a blade shook between rotten teeth alack.

The rogue in scarlet and grey soon knew his mind
    He wished to get his trophy and depart
With gentle apology and touch refined
    He pierced him and produced the captain's heart.

God's mercy rest on Captain Carpenter now
    I thought him sirs an honest gentleman
Citizen husband soldier and scholar enow
    Let jangling kites eat of him if they can.

But God's deep curses follow after those
    That shore him of his goodly nose and ears
His legs and strong arms at the two elbows
    And eyes that had not watered seventy years.

The curse of hell upon the sleek upstart
    That got the captain finally on his back
And took the red red vitals of his heart
    And made the kites to whet their beaks clack clack.

from The Fugitive, Volume III, Number 1. February 1924.