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.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Stephen Crane's poem Black riders came from the sea.


  1. ayana stephens says:

    This poem is so great I really enjoyed this poem….

  2. Jesse says:

    I love this poem!!!!!!!!! =)

  3. Pedro Raguirez says:

    I love this poem, it helped me with my life, great poem, if it wasnt for this poem i would be living in my parents basement

  4. Starfire says:

    i had to read this one twice but i understand it and i loved the meaning behind it!!!

  5. Matt says:

    Wonderful poem, great description. Short but sweet.
    Love it.

  6. Shope says:

    The poem is ediffying

  7. Danson Kahyana says:

    The poem is an example of Crane’s economy: a lot is said in so few words. I think ‘black’ is (unfortunately)used here in the conventional sense to symbolize evil. (I am saying ‘unfortunately’ because this kind of image keeps stereotyping and traumatizing the black race as being replicas of the devil, yet some of the most heart-rending atrocities in the world have been committed by the devil dressed in white, not black. Slavery, the Jewish holocaust, colonialism of Africa, the invasion of Vietnam and Iraq are just examples). The words ‘clang’ and ‘clash’ onomatopaeically represent the raid (or ride as the poet prefers to call it). The alliteration in lines 2, 3 and 4 also contributes to the structural unity of the poem: the spear is pitted against the shield (conjuring up a society less technologically endowed: a spear, not a bomb), the hoof against the heel (an animal versus a human or perhaps a savage versus a civilized person?), and wild shouts against the wave of hair. The concluding line serves to underline the ‘spirituality’ of Crane’s poem, which I think is unfortunate because we do not miss much if the line is deleted altogether. In fact the word ‘thus’ in that line tends to ‘dilute’ the seriousness of the poem: it makes it sound like some mini-theological pamplet.

    • ... says:

      thank u very much good sir ur splendid analysis of this poem has brought light to my day in this horrific english glass i abid u a good day.

  8. I'd rather not. says:

    By way of emendation, this poem was actually published in 1895, as the first poem in Crane’s first book of poems: _The Black Riders and Other Lines_. It was written at the request of Crane’s publisher. In any case, it’s very different from the other poems in the book, which (in my opinion) are much better. Here are several examples of what I mean:

    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.”

    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!”

    I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
    Round and round they sped.
    I was disturbed at this;
    I accosted the man.
    “It is futile,” I said,
    “You can never-”
    “You lie,” he cried,
    And ran on.

    Two or three angels
    Came near to the earth.
    They saw a fat church.
    Little black streams of people
    Came and went in continually.
    And the angels were puzzled
    To know why the people went thus,
    And why they stayed so long within.

    I walked in a desert.
    And I cried,
    “Ah, God, take me from this place!”
    A voice said, “It is no desert.”
    I cried, “Well, But-
    The sand, the heat, the vacant horizon.”
    A voice said, “It is no desert.”

    I was in the darkness;
    I could not see my words
    Nor the wishes of my heart.
    Then suddenly there was a great light-
    “Let me into the darkness again.”

    Many red devils ran from my heart
    And out upon the page,
    They were so tiny
    The pen could mash them.
    And many struggled in the ink.
    It was strange
    To write in this red muck
    Of things from my heart.

  9. Lee says:

    My take on this is that it’s a meditation on the horrors of war, the fierceness of it’s execution, and how one side will always view their enemy as commiting Sin.

  10. some kid who doesnt have a lunch says:

    this poem really reminds me of big juicy tits and people named lauren

  11. Macarmuratt says:

    Crane is a well digger as well as a jeweler and this short poem is meant to include the solid geometry of a diamond as well as the disquieting depth of a dry well. Behold ! The glittering diamond is down there in the bottom of the well!

  12. Erik says:

    I don’t think Crane is specifically adressing one single event. After reading some of his poems I think he was changed by the wars he covered. I do think there is some reference to culutral invasion, settlers, and pirates but I belive the underlying message is that war is horrid and no matter the situation it can only breed sin (and evil.)

  13. Lupe H. says:

    This is a good poem (he can do way better) but it really needs more life to it.

  14. micheala says:

    i think this was a really cool poem,i dont fully understand but these comments helped me a little.thanks/
    god bless u all.

  15. Not saying says:

    Dont take things to literly, Dont think(I know this sounds stupid so laugh away)Feel, poems arnt meant to mean one thing there meant to mean diffierent things to different people. So just except that its a great poem and dont try to change others perspective.

  16. Crystal says:

    I think It was a great poem!!!!!!!

  17. Petey says:

    Reece Klat is a mindless wambat with no foresight and perception

  18. Anthony says:

    I believe that this can represent any time one culture travels to another culture and forces change apon it.
    The “spear” representing the new cultures ways, the “shield” representing rebellion from the natives.
    Missionary work is, to me at least, a “sin”.

  19. Chad says:

    This poem seems to me like it is about a wicked bunch of pirates that swarm across the seas andplunder villages. They seem to be like savages with “Wild shouts and the wave of hair.” And they have chosen the path of treachery and dark deeds and god has stamped “sin” across their foreheads.

  20. Debbie says:

    I feel Mr. Crane was describing men comong off of ships and attacking the indians. The long hair and hoofs and heels. I believe he called them black riders to show the evil they came to cause.

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