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By John Crowe Ransom

Two evils, monstrous either one apart,

Possessed me, and were long and loath at going:   

A cry of Absence, Absence, in the heart,   

And in the wood the furious winter blowing.


Think not, when fire was bright upon my bricks,   

And past the tight boards hardly a wind could enter,   

I glowed like them, the simple burning sticks,   

Far from my cause, my proper heat and center.


Better to walk forth in the frozen air

And wash my wound in the snows; that would be healing;   

Because my heart would throb less painful there,   

Being caked with cold, and past the smart of feeling.


And where I walked, the murderous winter blast   

Would have this body bowed, these eyeballs streaming,   

And though I think this heart’s blood froze not fast   

It ran too small to spare one drop for dreaming.


Dear love, these fingers that had known your touch,   

And tied our separate forces first together,

Were ten poor idiot fingers not worth much,   

Ten frozen parsnips hanging in the weather.


Source: Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 1969)

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Poet Bio

John Crowe Ransom
Poet and Critic John Crowe Ransom grew up in Tennessee and attended Oxford and Vanderbilt University, where he taught for many decades. Though his career as a poet was short—most of his poems were published in a three year period—he enjoyed acclaim throughout his life. His short, traditional lyric poems, often filled with wit and irony, use both mythological allusions and situations from everyday life to examine the metaphysical difficulties of love and death. In poems such as “Janet Waking” he shows the instability of life and the difficulty of understanding its changes. See More By This Poet

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