John Crowe Ransom

(30 April 1888 - 3 July 1974 / Pulaski Tennessee)

Dead Boy


The little cousin is dead, by foul subtraction,
A green bough from Virginia's aged tree,
And none of the county kin like the transaction,
Nor some of the world of outer dark, like me.

A boy not beautiful, nor good, nor clever,
A black cloud full of storms too hot for keeping,
A sword beneath his mother's heart—yet never
Woman bewept her babe as this is weeping.

A pig with a pasty face, so I had said,
Squealing for cookies, kinned by poor pretense
With a noble house. But the little man quite dead,
I see the forbears' antique lineaments.

The elder men have strode by the box of death
To the wide flag porch, and muttering low send round
The bruit of the day. O friendly waste of breath!
Their hearts are hurt with a deep dynastic wound.

He was pale and little, the foolish neighbors say;
The first-fruits, saith the Preacher, the Lord hath taken;
But this was the old tree's late branch wrenched away,
Grieving the sapless limbs, the short and shaken.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Christopher White (4/18/2005 12:53:00 AM)

    This poem is Ransom at his clever best. Too often Ransom seems to verge on collapsing under the weight of his own importance. But I think he pulls off some effective effects here without seeming to be too enamored of his own sleights of hand.

    -chrispoet@netscape.net (Report) Reply

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