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Stephen Crane
by [?]

“WAR IS KIND.” Stephen Crane. $2.50. New York: F. A. Stokes
& Co. Pittsburg: J. R. Weldin & Co.

This truly remarkable book is printed on dirty gray blotting paper, on each page of which is a mere dot of print over a large I of vacancy. There are seldom more than ten lines on a page, and it would be better if most of those lines were not there at all. Either Mr. Crane is insulting the public or insulting himself, or he has developed a case of atavism and is chattering the primeval nonsense of the apes. His “Black Riders,” uneven as it was, was a casket of polished masterpieces when compared with “War Is Kind.” And it is not kind at all, Mr. Crane; when it provokes such verses as these, it is all that Sherman said it was.

The only production in the volume that is at all coherent is the following, from which the book gets its title:

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 flies 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 the 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 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.

Of course, one may have objections to hearts hanging like humble buttons, or to buttons being humble at all, but one should not stop to quarrel about such trifles with a poet who can perpetrate the following:

Thou art my love,
And thou art the beard
On another man’s face–
Woe is me.

Thou art my love,
And thou art a temple,
And in this temple is an altar,
And on this temple is my heart–
Woe is me.

Thou art my love,
And thou art a wretch.
Let these sacred love-lies choke thee.
For I am come to where I know your lies as truth
And your truth as lies–
Woe is me.

Now, if you please, is the object of these verses animal, mineral or vegetable? Is the expression, “Thou art the beard on another man’s face,” intended as a figure, or was it written by a barber? Certainly, after reading this, “Simple Simon” is a ballade of perfect form, and “Jack and Jill” or “Hickity, Pickity, My Black Hen,” are exquisite lyrics. But of the following what shall be said:

Now let me crunch you
With full weight of affrighted love.
I doubted you
–I doubted you–
And in this short doubting
My love grew like a genie
For my further undoing.

Beware of my friends,
Be not in speech too civil,
For in all courtesy
My weak heart sees specters,
Mists of desire
Arising from the lips of my chosen;
Be not civil.

This is somewhat more lucid as evincing the bard’s exquisite sensitiveness:

Ah, God, the way your little finger moved
As you thrust a bare arm backward.
And made play with your hair
And a comb, a silly gilt comb
–Ah, God, that I should suffer
Because of the way a little finger moved.