John Crowe Ransom

Painted Head

By dark severance the apparition head 
Smiles from the air a capital on no 
Column or a Platonic perhaps head 
On a canvas sky depending from nothing; 

Stirs up an old illusion of grandeur 
By tickling the instinct of heads to be 
Absolute and to try decapitation 
And to play truant from the body bush; 

But too happy and beautiful for those sorts 
Of head (homekeeping heads are happiest) 
Discovers maybe thirty unwidowed years 
Of not dishonoring the faithful stem; 

Is nameless and has authored for the evil 
Historian headhunters neither book 
Nor state and is therefore distinct from tart 
Heads with crowns and guilty gallery heads; 

So that the extravagant device of art 
Unhousing by abstraction this once head 
Was capital irony by a loving hand 
That knew the no treason of a head like this; 

Makes repentance in an unlovely head 
For having vinegarly traduced the flesh 
Till, the hurt flesh recusing, the hard egg 
Is shrunken to its own deathlike surface; 

And an image thus. The body bears the head 
(So hardly one they terribly are two) 
Feeds and obeys and unto please what end? 
Not to the glory of tyrant head but to 

The increase of body. Beauty is of body. 
The flesh contouring shallowly on a head 
Is a rock-garden needing body's love 
And best bodiness to colorify 

The big blue birds sitting and sea-shell flats 
And caves, and on the iron acropolis 
To spread the hyacinthine hair and rear 
The olive garden for the nightingales.