Lisa N's Reviews > Complete Poems of Stephen Crane

Complete Poems of Stephen Crane by Stephen Crane
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May 08, 2012

it was amazing

I ran across this poem years ago and was hooked on Crane’s poetry.

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said: “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.”

Characteristically terse and pessimistic. It was interesting to read the complete works. (There are only 135 poems—Crane died at the age of 28 of TB.) His inward conflict with the plight of fallen man and his enmity with God permeates throughout, yet, notably, some of his verse is compassionate and insightful.

Random favorites:

I stood upon a high place,
And saw, below, many devils
Running, leaping,
And carousing in sin.
One looked up, grinning,
And said: “Comrade! Brother!”

A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”

Yes, I have a thousand tongues,
And nine and ninety-nine lie.
Though I strive to use the one,
It will make no melody at my will,
But is dead in my mouth.

Once there was a man,
Oh, so wise!
In all drink
He detected the bitter,
And in all touch
He found the sting.
At last he cried thus:
“There is nothing,--
No life,
No joy,
No pain,--
There is nothing save opinion,
And opinion be damned.”

There was One I met upon the road
Who looked at me with kind eyes.
He said: “Show me of your wares.”
And I did,
Holding forth one.
He said: “It is a sin.”
Then I held forth another.
He said: “It is a sin.”
Then I held forth another.
He said: “It is a sin.”
And so to the end.
Always He said: “”It is a sin.”
At last, I cried out:
But I have none other.”
He looked at me
With kinder eyes.
“Poor soul,” He said.

Behold, the grave of a wicked man,
And near it, a stern spirit.

There came a drooping maid with violets,
But the spirit grasped her arm.
“No flowers for him,” He said.
The maid wept:
“Ah, I loved him.”
But the spirit, grim and frowning:
“No flowers for him.”

Now, this is it—
If the spirit was just,
Why did the maid weep?

I met a seer.
He held in his hands
The book of wisdom.
“Sir,” I addressed him,
“Let me read.”
“Child—” he began.
“Sir,” I said,
“Think not that I am a child,
For already I know much
Of that which you hold.
Aye, much.”

He smiled.
Then he opened the book
And held it before me.
Strange that I should have grown so suddenly blind.
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