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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 shorn and shaken.


John Crowe Ransom

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