A TRIBUTE TO JOHN CROWE RANSOM
A tribute to John Crowe Ransom, on the occasion of his appearence at the Guggenheim Museum Auditorium, under the auspices of the Academy of American Poets, on December 19, 1963. Read by the author at the Guggenheim Museum, this is its first publication. The left column contains the original copy of the tribute, including Warren's editorial notation.
|This is a very happy occasion for all of us. But I want to insist on my own pleasure in being able to say how much
I owe to John Crowe Ransom, and to say how grateful I am for this long friendship. Allen Tate has expressed his
own attachment and admiration. -- as Cal Lowell, another old student and friend would have had he been present.
But I am sure that we speak for many other people -- even for many others who never had the opportunity of sitting
in John Ransom's classroom.
We are here to honor as best we can a man and a poet of rare quality and distinction. In a special sense, the man and the poet are scarcely to be separated. The two exist for us in an almost unique, mutually fulfilling harmony -- in a peculiar blend of strength and gentleness, of wit and sympathy, of tough integrity and invincible gaity of spirit. His special tone of being is the most significant thing he has given his friends. In the poems it is what he has given the world.
In the long period since Chils and Fever and Twho Gentlemen in Bonds were published, we have heard many new voices, some of them strong and beautiful. But over and over again, in moments of silence, there is that voice speaking
off the page, in its unique accent, to give us again "Vision by Sweetwater," "Bells for John Whiteside's Daughter," "Tom, Tom , the piper's Son," or "The Equilibrists." Will there ever come a time when the mid will not be delighted by the wit and precision, the wisdom and control we find in "Tom, Tom" or "The Eqilibrists"? Will the time ever come when "Vision by Sweetwater" will not touch the heart?
I had fogotten "Philomela." I shall quote the last stanza:
Perhaps none of our time is worthy of the provinces of Philomela. But if ever so small a remnant of the worthy be found, we can be sure that the poet whom we rejoice to honor tonight will be found standing calmly among them.
Robert Penn Warren