John Crowe Ransom

Captain Carpenter

Captain Carpenter rose up in his prime 
Put on his pistols and went riding out 
But had got wellnigh nowhere at that time 
Till he fell in with ladies in a rout. 

It was a pretty lady and all her train 
That played with him so sweetly but before 
An hour she'd taken a sword with all her main 
And twined him of his nose for evermore.

 Captain Carpenter mounted up one day 
And rode straightway into a stranger rogue 
That looked unchristian but be that as may 
The Captain did not wait upon prologue. 

But drew upon him out of his great heart 
The other swung against him with a club 
And cracked his two legs at the shinny part 
And let him roll and stick like any tub.

Captain Carpenter rode many a time 
From male and female took he sundry harms
He met the wife of Satan crying "I'm 
The she-wolf bids you shall bear no more arms.

Their strokes and counters whistled in the wind 
I wish he had delivered half his blows 
But where she should have made off like a hind 
The bitch bit off his arms at the elbows. 

And Captain Carpenter parted with his ears 
To a black devil that used him in this wise
O Jesus ere his threescore and ten years 
Another had plucked out his sweet blue eyes. 

Captain Carpenter got up on his roan 
And sallied from the gate in hell's despite 
I heard him asking in the grimmest tone 
If any enemy yet there was to fight? 

"To any adversary it is fame 
If he risk to be wounded by my tongue 
Or burnt in two beneath my red heart's flame 
Such are the perils he is cast among.

"But if he can he has a pretty choice 
From an anatomy with little to lose 
Whether he cut my tongue and take my voice 
Or whether it be my round red heart he choose." 

It was the neatest knave that ever was seen 
Stepping in perfume from his lady's bower 
Who at this word put in his merry mien 
And fell on Captain Carpenter like a tower.

I would not knock old fellows in the dust 
But there lay Captain Carpenter on his back 
His weapons were the old heart in his bust 
And a blade shook between rotten teeth alack. 

The rogue in scarlet and grey soon knew his mind. 
He wished to get his trophy and depart 
With gentle apology and touch refined 
He pierced him and produced the Captain's heart. 

God's mercy rest on Captain Carpenter now 
I thought him Sirs an honest gentleman 
Citizen husband soldier and scholar enow 
Let jangling kites eat of him if they can. 

But God's deep curses follow after those 
That shore him of his goodly nose and ears 
His legs and strong arms at the two elbows 
And eyes that had not watered seventy years. 

The curse of hell upon the sleek upstart 
That got the Captain finally on his back 
And took the red red vitals of his heart
And made the kites to whet their beaks clack clack.