By Stephen Crane
(1871 - 1900)
 
 
Ancestry
 
 
ONCE I saw mountains angry,
And ranged in battle-front.
Against them stood a little man;
Ay, he was no bigger than my finger.
I laughed, and spoke to one near me,
“Will he prevail?”
“Surely,” replied this other;
“His grandfathers beat them many times.”
Then did I see much virtue in grandfathers,—
At least, for the little man
Who stood against the mountains.
 
 
Content
 
 
A YOUTH in apparel that glittered
Went to walk in a grim forest.
There he met an assassin
Attired all in garb of old days;
He, scowling through the thickets,
And dagger poised quivering,
Rushed upon the youth.
“Sir,” said this latter,
“I am enchanted, believe me.
To die thus,
In this mediæval fashion,
According to the best legends;
Ah, what joy!”
Then took he the wound, smiling,
And died, content.
 
 
I Explain
 
 
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 grayer 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.
 
 
’Scaped
 
 
ONCE I knew a fine song,
—It is true, believe me,—
It was all of birds,
And I held them in a basket;
When I opened the wicket,
Heavens! they all flew away.
I cried, “Come back, Little Thoughts!”
But they only laughed.
They flew on
Until they were as sand
Thrown between me and the sky.
 
 
The Black Riders
 
 
BLACK riders came from the sea.
There was clang and clang of spear and shield,
And clash and clash of hoof and heel,
Wild shouts and the wave of hair
In the rush upon the wind:
Thus the ride of sin.
 
 
The Peaks
 
 
IN the night
Gray, heavy clouds muffled the valleys,
And the peaks looked toward God alone.
    “O Master, that movest the wind with a finger,
    Humble, idle, futile peaks are we.
    Grant that we may run swiftly across the world
    To huddle in worship at Thy feet.”
 
In the morning
A noise of men at work came the clear blue miles,
And the little black cities were apparent.
    “O Master, that knowest the meaning of raindrops,
    Humble, idle, futile peaks are we.
    Give voice to us, we pray, O Lord,
    That we may sing Thy goodness to the sun.”
 
In the evening
The far valleys were sprinkled with tiny lights.
“O Master,
    Thou that knowest the value of kings and birds,
    Thou hast made us humble, idle, futile peaks.
    Thou only needest eternal patience;
    We bow to Thy wisdom, O Lord—
    Humble, idle, futile peaks.”
 
In the night
Gray, heavy clouds muffled the valleys,
And the peaks looked toward God alone.
 
 
The Violets
 
 
THERE was a land where lived no violets.
A traveller at once demanded: “Why?”
The people told him:
“Once the violets of this place spoke thus:
‘Until some woman freely gives her lover
To another woman
We will fight in bloody scuffle.’”
Sadly the people added:
“There are no violets here.”
 
 
The Wayfarer
 
 
THE WAYFARER,
Perceiving the pathway to truth,
Was struck with astonishment.
It was thickly grown with weeds.
“Ha,” he said,
“I see that none has passed here
In a long time.”
Later he saw that each weed
Was a singular knife.
“Well,” he mumbled at last,
“Doubtless there are other roads.”
 
 
Why?
 
 
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?
 
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