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.
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Beautifully Janet slept
Till it was deeply morning. She woke then
And thought about her dainty-feathered hen,
To see how it had kept.
One kiss she gave her mother,
Only a small one gave she to her daddy
Who would have kissed each curl of his...
Bells for John Whiteside’s Daughter
There was such speed in her little body,
And such lightness in her footfall,
It is no wonder her brown study
Astonishes us all.
Her wars were bruited in our high window.
We looked among orchard trees and beyond
Where she took arms against her shadow,
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...