Hogarth Press First Edition of Karn
Washington State University Library, Rare Books and Special Collections

Rights Holder

Penguin Random House Archive and Library


Ruth Manning-Sanders


Karn is a book-length fantastical narrative poem. Karn, the hero, at first is lost at sea and then goes on an adventure to try to find "the love of mortal men." He comes upon a community of religious fanatics engaged in devotional incantation ("Red kirtled in black groves the small-lipped priests /Turn to the moon"). Karn then encounters "golden boys" that the priests have conjured with their chanting, he smites them and upsets the priests. The whole group heads back to the village to find that the king is upset with Karn's gallavanting. After a bit of a chat, Karn manages to convince the King that together they can "free /The people from the priestly lie" and develop a society with no religion. Then, he meets the princess and she kisses him and falls in love. Karn then kisses a slave girl and falls in love with her. Then it turns out that the princess has a book of sorcery and is actually a shape-shifter, so Karn leaves the village in order to escape her and calls out for help from some elves. An elf turns up to help him and stays with him for nine days until he is ready to go back to the village. He returns to find a slave being beaten by the princess's army of "Great women with bare bodies and their groins/Aproned in leather." He decides once and for all that this is too much and that the princess is evil, so he leaves the village again. Book III suddenly switches into second-person, addressing the reader for the first three stanzas. War ensues between the King and his army and Karn. Eventually, after the battle, Karn and the slave are happily reunited. 

Call Number

PR6025.A52 K3



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