IN dog-days plowmen quit their toil,
And frog-ponds in the meadow boil,
And grasses on the upland broil,
And all the coiling things uncoil,
And eggs and meats and Christians spoil.

A mile away the valley breaks
(So all good valleys do) and makes
A cool green water for hot heads' sakes,
And sundry sullen dog-days' aches.

The swimmer's body is white and clean,
It is washed by a water of deepest green
The color of leaves in a starlight scene,
And it is as white as the stars between.

But the swimmer's soul is a thing possessed,
His soul is naked as his breast,
Remembers not its east and west,
And ponders this way, I have guessed:

I have no home in the cruel heat
On alien soil that blisters feet.
This water is my native seat,
And more than ever cool and sweet,
So long by forfeiture escheat.

O my forgiving element!
I gash you to my heart's content
And never need be penitent,
So light you float me when breath is spent
And close again where my rude way went.

And now you close above my head,
And I lie low in a soft green bed
That dog-days never have visited.
'By the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread:'
The garden's curse is at last unsaid

What do I need of senses five?
Why eat, or drink, or sweat, or wive?
What do we strive for when we strive?
What do we live for when alive?

And what if I do not rise again,
Never to goad a heated brain
To hotter excesses of joy and pain?

Why should it be against the grain
To lie so cold and still and sane?

Water-bugs play shimmer-shimmer,
Naked body's just a glimmer,
Watch ticks every second grimmer:
Come to the top, O wicked swimmer!


About John Crowe Ransom


John Crowe Ransom was an American poet, essayist, magazine editor, and professor. Life Ransom was the third of four children of a Methodist minister. His family was highly literate. As a child, he read his family's library and engaged his father in passionate discussions. He published five main books of poetry, four books of essays, and edited three anthologies. He also published one textbook on writing, A College Primer of Writing (1943). Ransom was home schooled until age ten, and entered Vanderbilt University at fifteen, graduating first in his class in 1909. He interrupted his studies for two years to... Read more...

Poet of the day

Jessie Pope was an English poet, writer and journalist, who remains best known for her patriotic motivational poems published during World War I. Wilfred OwenSiegfried Sassoon has grown.

Early Career

Born in Leicester, she was educated at North London Collegiate School. She was a regular contributor to Punch, The Daily...
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Poem of the day


Pour tous ― elle excepté ― ma vie a son mystère :
Un amour éternel depuis longtemps conçu.
Mon cœur en débordait ; pourtant j'ai dû le taire :
Nul profane ici-bas n'en a jamais rien su.

À distance je vis, discret, inaperçu ;
On me...
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