The Old South and John Crowe Ransom

1728 Words7 Pages
The Old South and John Crowe Ransom Most remember it as a time of dashing young heroes on horseback, fair damsels in distress, and majestic castles hidden from the vulgarity of daily life by the cool shade of fragrant magnolia and honeysuckle. It was a time and place so far removed from today’s fast moving, billboard covered world that one could easily imagine that this lost civilization existed on some far off continent, or perhaps not at all. However, the fact remains that once upon a time the old South did exist, and there are many people still who feel that the loss of this culture and its ideals is nothing short of a tragedy. One such individual was John Crowe Ransom, a man whose life was tempered with his intense yearning for the tradition and stability that the old South embodied, and that has been lost forever amid the skyscrapers and factories that have replaced the cotton fields and plantation homes of long ago. The power that the old South held for Ransom drove his works, as can be evidenced in his poem, “Old Mansion,” which describes his ultimately futile attempts to return to the old traditions. The common thread unifying Ransom’s work is that of longing for the stability and tradition that the old South embodies. As in his essays, this poem explores the possibilities of what unlocking the secrets of this lost era might entail, and what benefits could be reaped in today’s society from such an undertaking. In this poem, Ransom fails; however, the poem remains an important step in his journey to seek out the old traditions and integrate them into a modern framework. To begin this journey, Ransom introduces the “old mansion” as a concrete concept to represent the traditional values and lifestyles sought. Every bit of the structure, from its ivied columns, crumbling graveyard, and ultimately, its inhabitants themselves, serve as parables for Ransom’s search. The language in the opening stanzas clearly demonstrates the reverence and personal affinity Ransom feels for the plantation home, i.e. the old South. Yet despite the fact that he wants nothing more than to return to this way of life, he still refers to himself as an “intruder” (ln 1) into this world that he cherishes so highly. Clearly, despite Ransom’s desire for a return to these simpler times, he maintains a feeling of respect for the past itself, and is not attempting to relive it. He is an intruder in this past, yet he wants desperately to understand its meaning, rather than just appreciate its beauty.

More about The Old South and John Crowe Ransom

Open Document