War is Kind by Stephen Crane

War is Kind

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subjects: Poetry

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Description

War is Kind, was unconventional for the time in that it was written in free verse without rhyme, meter, or even titles for individual works. They are typically short in length and although several poems, such as ‘Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind’, use stanzas and refrains, most do not. Crane also differed from his peers and poets of later generations in that his work contains allegory, dialectic and narrative situations. (source: Wikipedia)


13 pages, with a reading time of ~0.25 hours (3,463 words), and first published in 1899. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, .

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Excerpt

Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind.
Because your lover threw wild hands toward the sky
And the affrighted steed ran on alone,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment,
Little souls who thirst for fight,
These men were born to drill and die.
The unexplained glory files above them,
Great is the battle-god, great, and his kingdom--
A field where a thousand corpses lie.

Do not weep, babe, for war is kind.
Because your father tumbled in the yellow trenches,
Raged at his breast, gulped and died,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Swift blazing flag of the regiment,
Eagle with crest of red and gold,
These men were born to drill and die.
Point for them the virtue of the slaughter,
Make plain to them the excellence of killing
And a field where a thousand corpses lie.

Mother whose heart hung humble as a button
On the bright splendid shroud of your son,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

What says the sea, little shell?
"What says the sea?
"Long has our brother been silent to us,
"Kept his message for the ships,
"Awkward ships, stupid ships."

"The sea bids you mourn, O Pines,
"Sing low in the moonlight.
"He sends tale of the land of doom,
"Of place where endless falls
"A rain of women's tears,
"And men in grey robes--
"Men in grey robes--
"Chant the unknown pain."

"What says the sea, little shell?
"What says the sea?
"Long has our brother been silent to us,
"Kept is message for the ships,
"Puny ships, silly ships."

"The sea bids you teach, O Pines,
"Sing low in the moonlight;
"Teach the gold of patience,
"Cry gospel of gentle hands,
"Cry a brotherhood of hearts.
"The sea bids you teach, O Pines."

"And where is the reward, little shell?
"What says the sea?
"Long has our brother been silent to us,
"Kept his message for the ships,
"Puny ships, silly ships."

"No word says the sea, O Pines,
"No word says the sea.
"Long will your brother be silent to you,
"Keep his message for the ships,
"O puny ships, silly pines."

To the maiden
The sea was blue meadow,
Alive with little froth-people
Singing.

To the sailor, wrecked,
The sea was dead grey walls
Superlative in vacancy,
Upon which nevertheless at fateful time
Was written
The grim hatred of nature.

A little ink more or less!
It surely can't matter?
Even the sky and the opulent sea,
The plains and the hills, aloof,
Hear the uproar of all these books.
But it is only a little ink more or less.

What?
You define me God with these trinkets?
Can my misery meal on an ordered walking
Of surpliced numskulls?
And a fanfare of lights?
Or even upon the measured pulpitings
Of the familiar false and true?
Is this God?
Where, then is hell?
Show me some bastard mushrooms
Sprung from a pollution of blood.
It is better.

Where is God?

"Have you ever made a just man?"
"Oh, I have made three," answered God,
"But two of them are dead,
"And the third--
"Listen! Listen!
"And you will hear the thud of his defeat."

I explain the silvered passing of a ship at night,
The sweep of each sad lost wave,
The dwindling boom of the steel thing's striving,
The little cry of a man to a man,
A shadow falling across the greyer night,
And the sinking of the small star;

Then the waste, the far waste of waters,
And the soft lashing of black waves
For long and in loneliness.

Remember, thou, O ship of love,
Thou leavest a far waste of waters,
And the soft lashing of black waves
For long and in loneliness.

"I have heard the sunset song of the birches,
"A white melody in the silence,
"I have seen a quarrel of the pines.
"At nightfall
"The little grasses have rushed by me
"With the wind men.
"These things have I lived," quoth the maniac,
"Possessing only eyes and ears.
"But you--
"You don green spectacles before you look at roses."

Fast rode the knight
With spurs, hot and reeking,
Ever waving an eager sword,
"To save my lady!"
Fast rode the knight,
And leaped from saddle to war.
Men of steel flickered and gleamed
Like riot of silver lights,
And the gold of the knight's good banner
Still waved on a castle wall.
.    .    .    .    .    .    .
A horse,
Blowing, staggering, bloody thing,
Forgotten at foot of castle wall.
A horse
Dead at foot of castle wall.