Miller Williams

Miller Williams: On "Bells for John Whiteside's Daughter"

The almost nonconnotative "bruited," the humor of the geese scuttling "goose-fashion," lend the distance, the perspective the poem has to have, especially after such an opening line. We realize slowly that the poem is not a simple elegy, that the grief is not so great as the consternation and wonder. The "brown study" "astonishes" us; we are vexed, but we are vexed more at the turning of quickness into stillness than at the loss of the little girl herself, and we are taken most with the contrast between the stillness of the girl and the scuttling of the geese. Our understanding is incomplete, we are taken aback, and because of this--only Ransom's word will do--we are vexed.