The leisured, protracted perusal of Lady Bates' death raises goose bumps for the juxtaposition of a girlish gentility and the persistence of Night, an ambiguous cavalier who rescues the girl from a future of hard knocks. Set against the chain gangs and kitchen jobs of hard-handed Southern racism, the premature loss of an innocent soul suits the unblinking inscription in "the Book of Life." Recorded among other "poor black trash" tragedies, the short life bears Jarrell's characteristic sweet melancholy offset by a teasing cruelty that taunts, "Reach, move your hand a little, try to move — / You can't move, can you?"The gently evocative "Lady Bates" prefigures somber, disappointed female figures in Jarrell's later works, particularly "The Woman at the Washington Zoo" and "Next Day." Published in 1960 as the
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Jarrell, Washington Zoo, Lady Bates, innocent soul suits, poor black trash, gorgeous rippling hide