Fall 1947 • Vol. IX No. 4 Poetry |

Overture: The Hostages

The teacher, the preacher, my mother, a mouse Sit snarled in the circle the cat has stitched In the barn; and they shift all day in their rope Till one of them cries, his neighbor hums, And one knits in her head; but the pigeons glide From their nests in the eaves, to the shades that clock The time of death. The boots of the grey Guards tick on the stone. But the wood's wild eyes Peer in from the green glades roped with light, From the paths that ribbon the sighing wild; And the shapes move, at the back of sight, From the pit where they mined the stones of the graves, From the rails where the hand-car rusts in the shaft, From the field where the tame fox plays by the trap. They have fired their volley over the fat Cold limbs of their major, dead a day —But no one comes; and the captives waitFor life, for death — so the pigeons say — And hear, from the square where the guns are set, These shots that herald the end of day.

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Randall Jarrell was a poet, critic, and literary essayist. From 1937 to 1939 he taught at Kenyon College, where he met John Crowe Ransom and Robert Lowell.

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The teacher, the preacher, my mother, a mouse Sit snarled in the circle the cat has stitched In the barn; and they shift all day in their rope Till one […]

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