Snowetry, Day 5

Snowetry: Poetry about snow. Most often read and meditated on by people in southern parts of the United States that gaze longingly at leaden skies and wonder why they have freezing cold weather, cold rain, but no very little snow.

Winter Remembered

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.

Not every image of winter and storms, not every description of snow, and remembrance of the cold is pleasant.  We hear such words as “harsh,” “bitter,” “biting,” “chilling,” “brutal,” and many more used of winter experiences.  Read a Jack London story about the Yukon, particularly “Love of Life” or “To Build a Fire,” and you will experience something far different from the song “Winter Wonderland.”

This poem by John Crowe Ransom uses winter as an outward metaphor to reflect the inner turmoil.  This is a poem of hardship, rejection, and hurt in a love relationship.  (Just the right message leading up to Valentine’s Day, right?)  It creates the image of a warm cabin with a blazing fire and two people in love.  But something happened and now the speaker is alone and in agony.  The harsh force of the winter weather is actually pain numbing to him in this time of agony.

Poetry captures emotional moments.  You may be happily in love (and I am), enjoying the warm fire inside (and I would), and finding a walk outside brisk and refreshing (and I possibly would).  Yet, the range of human experience tells you that this poem too describes a part of what we go through in the emotional seasons of life.

Ransom was a southerner, a literary critic, a teacher, and a poet.  He called himself a “major minor poet.”  He was largely responsible for the outbreak of literary genius that erupted at Vanderbilt University in the 1920s that was known as the Fugitive Poetry movement.  He and his key students, including Donald Davidson, Alan Tate, and Robert Penn Warren, became the leaders in the movement.  Ransom’s literary criticism contributed to the New Critics movement.  His literary, social, and political thought contributed to the Agrarian movement> His influence on American literature in general, and Southern literature, is inestimable.

In his latter days of fame and esteem, Ransom is seated third from the left, along with some of the men he mentored.

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