Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind

Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind.
Because the 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 wher 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 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.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Stephen Crane's poem Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind

36 Comments

  1. BNA says:

    For those who are unfamiliar with the historical context of this poem, Crane released it (in a novel with a series of other “lines”) in 1899 after acting as a journalist for the Spanish-American War. Mustard gas was not used in warfare at the time, but yellow fever was prominent. The lines about the father who “tumbled in the yellow trenches, raged at his breast, gulped and died” can also relate to this disease. Because some of its symptoms include arrhythmia, or heart dysfunction, and seizures, yellow fever could easily cause someone to “rage at his breast”. Crane is renowned for his realistic war fiction and poetry, and this satirical piece is, in my opinion, one of his greatest.

  2. Steve says:

    This poem… is what I am studing in class write now. according to the teacher, this poem is about the Civil War, for those who were curious about it.

  3. Joe says:

    With all the secrets the government keeps, mabye mustard gas actually WAS being used but we were kept in the dark about it.

  4. Cynthia says:

    This poem makes good use of the difference between the “speaker” and the “author”. The speech may be irony, rather than sarcasm, since the speaker seems to be trying to comfort the maiden/babe/mother. However, the imagery suggests something different altogether. While the “speaker” is telling them not to cry, the author supplies grotesque imagery that portrays the horrors of war. In stanzas 2 and 4, and a bit in the last stanza, the author also shows some of the archetypal glory of war. This poem displays the initial idea of war, and the “new” idea of war, after people have been able to experience the loss and horror that comes with it.

  5. Astara says:

    The poem is written in a way that is sort of bitter, like he says that war is kind is the same a abused person saying there abuser is kind

  6. Wes Rhodes says:

    Mustard gas was not around yet (or atleast not yet used in war)… Written in 1899

  7. Mr. C says:

    The tone clearly is sarcastic. Of course, ironic and paridoxical poetic devices are employed as well throughout the piece by the poet, but his tone is undoubtedly sarcastic.

    Also, whoever said this poem could be interpreted as a satire is right. It uses sarcasm and irony to deride a traditional belief of war (human folly). Thus, it can be interpreted as satire.

  8. Drake says:

    Come on dude…the comment below… Stephen Crane’s tone is sarcasm duh… he does a great job describing how inglorious war really is by his sarcastic tone… come on be intelligent…just read the poem over to see what I mean…

  9. Ryan Walters says:

    crane really does a poor job of showing his feelings toward war. he says “do not weep, war is kind”, its telling the daughter dont cry, because losing a family member or 2, or 3 is natural in war. but then reading the rest of the poem strickly says war is tragic, frightful, and death is a great fear.

  10. Jplucky says:

    This poem is great, it makes me think of today with the war going on.

  11. Pat says:

    This poem goes back and forth between the view of the civilian and the soldier. The maiden, the soldier, the child, the soldier, and the mother.
    The poem shows the excuses we give to those left behind and what that the soldiers are told. They died for the greater good, they died for glory, they died well – in excellence and virtue. “The unexplained glory flies above them…point for them the virtue of slaughter, make plain to them the excellence of killing…” Soldiers go believing that they are doing what’s best and for glory and to be a hero. But the only kingdom is that of the war god, his subjects a thousand corpses. At the end all this excuses are for naught, they’re still just corpses. All they leave behind are the tears of those who loved them.
    So is war worth it?

  12. kyle says:

    The poem War is Kind, is a great poem, and you could say that the poem is ironic, but I think that you could give a better argument about how the poem is more sarcastic. But overall the poem is a great poem.

  13. Natalie says:

    I agree with those who described Crane’s poem as ironic more than sarcastic, but a paradox seems to much to describe it. Oh, and I’m a sophomore too! Poem of choice for school projects I guess :p. But seriously, I really like this poem and admire Crane greatly for his ability to express his opinions so effectively.

  14. Roland says:

    U Rock War Is Kind! It Builds Empires And Destroys Nations!

  15. Krystle says:

    Why are some calling it a novel?? It’s a poem. I must agree with Wendy. Sarcasim is completely the wrong word to describe what Stephen Crane has done with this poem. Irony and paradox are much more easily supported throughout the poem than sarcasism. OH and just because I can, I’m a sophmore in high school and understood that he didn’t like war before I even read these comments to help me get a deeper meaning of the poem. Thanks Wendy you were alot of help!

  16. Mike says:

    In response to Sanchez, this poem is not simply meant to comfort the loved ones of those that die in war. Crane uses his words to show that there is no comfort for these women because there husbands, sons, and fathers died for something as futile as a war. The only word to describe Crane’s intent is sarcasm. He shows no sympathy for these women but raher mocks their loss, not because he does not care, but because their men died needlessly.

  17. wendy says:

    This is not sarcasm. That is such a negative term to apply to Stephen Crane’s brilliant sense of paradox and irony. Paradox … that something appears to be one thing and is in reality quite another. ‘War is Kind’ underscores the illusion maintained by men who believe in war, makes plain the (non)exellence of killing, the (non) virtue of slaughter, the unexplained (non) glory. It tells of the universal suffering, of the maiden, the soldier, the babe, the mother. War ‘kindly’ dispells the illusion of glory or virtue. In other words, the horror of war is the only thing in the end that will teach us the falseness of our belief that war can ever be right or bring glory or solve anything. This is a spirtual poem. Look at the spiritual language … the ‘little’ souls who thirst for fight, the Battle-God and his Kingdom, which can only be a graveyard where a thousand corpses lie, and that only in that false kingdom is there virtue in killing. Stephen is telling us that men have made war a false god, and that in the end, it is war alone that ‘kindly’ teaches us the higher truth.

  18. Nathaniel H. says:

    In response to other comments, I think “ironic” is a better word to use than “sarcastic”. What I love about the poem is the power and emotion he evokes without talking about emotion at all. It is poignant without being overly sentimental.

  19. Kat says:

    I think that this work is amazing. Since I read this is wondered how a man could fit so much emotion into so few words. I was also taken aback by the fact that he was only what? 28? , when he wrote this poem. I’m sixteen and I wonder if in 12 years I will be able to fit the emotions of the moment into 5 or 6 stanzas. The truth is, this poem is a great example of how irony affects a reader, and how to use irony to get your point across. I envy this man for all of his talent.

  20. Sanchez says:

    This poem is not showing the futility of war or anything like that. i think it’s actualy written as a comfortor to the women who have lost someone dear to them and telling them in very colorfull language that war is the kind hand that took their loved on from a sort of hell on earth.

  21. Spiffy says:

    This is props to Szilard. I’d like to remind people who come here to read poems and comment on them that the biggest mistake in analyzing poetry is forcing your own opinion into a poem where it doesn’t apply. War is Kind definitely evokes contrast and irony between the title and the reality of war. There is not, however, a negative attitude towards soldiers themselves. Crane actually respects the soldiers and does them honorable tribute with his words, in some ways harsh and realistic and in others quite romantic and nobly patriotic. So rather than force your square-peg-in-round-hole theory onto great poetic works, read it. And learn to spell.

  22. josh says:

    this novel is really interesting. Crane uses a lot of sarcasm and repetition in this poem. He surely does not agree that ”war is kind,” he just says to be sarcastic. He thinks that soldiers go out to war inorder to get their fame and pride, however, they end up loosing their lives. War is a battle not only between your opponents, but also between the pesron and his thoughts. This is because a person will have a struggle within himself, wheather he should fight or run away from the battle. We see this throughout our main character, the young boy who tries to overcome his thoughts on runnig away from the battlefield. Eventually he does get to abtain this negetive feeling and fights so bravely. Not only that, but at the end he ends up known by his comrades as a ”war devil.”

  23. Amber says:

    I am reading this for a sophomore class in high school. After reading everyone’s thoughts it helped me understand what was really being said. Crane apposed of war and was not for it at all. He shows this through his detais in the deaths of the soldiers.
    Thanks to all of you for helping me out with my homework.

  24. katie burns says:

    this novel is really interesting. Crane uses a lot of sarcasm and repetition in this poem. He surely does not agree that ”war is kind,” he just says to be sarcastic. He thinks that soldiers go out to war inorder to get their fame and pride, however, they end up loosing their lives. War is a battle not only between your opponents, but also between the pesron and his thoughts. This is because a person will have a struggle within himself, wheather he should fight or run away from the battle. We see this throughout our main character, the young boy who tries to overcome his thoughts on runnig away from the battlefield. Eventually he does get to abtain this negetive feeling and fights so bravely. Not only that, but at the end he ends up known by his comrades as a ”war devil.”

  25. Katrina says:

    this novel is really interesting. Crane uses a lot of sarcasm and repetition in this poem. He surely does not agree that ”war is kind,” he just says to be sarcastic. He thinks that soldiers go out to war inorder to get their fame and pride, however, they end up loosing their lives. War is a battle not only between your opponents, but also between the pesron and his thoughts. This is because a person will have a struggle within himself, wheather he should fight or run away from the battle. We see this throughout our main character, the young boy who tries to overcome his thoughts on runnig away from the battlefield. Eventually he does get to abtain this negetive feeling and fights so bravely. Not only that, but at the end he ends up known by his comrades as a ”war devil.”

  26. Szilard says:

    This is a criticism in reply to looolooo’s post above.
    Injustice is a horrible thing, and war an almost necessary but evil remedy. War is a horrible thing, injustice is maybe an even more horrible thing, and there should be ways to stop injustice without resorting to war. It’s the only way to stop war.
    Life, love, “the teasing war with your lover” that you both enjoy is one thing, feeling the energy mount you but not destroy you, instead, protect you, is one thing, but the statement “I lust for war” can be so misinterpreted, you’re setting yourself up for such a subconscious attack, saying you lust for destruction, instead of lust for life, the real metaphor for your meaning of “war.” How about saying “aggravated murder, wall-smashed babies, tank-steel ridden blood marinated corpses” is what I see in my babe’s face, and let’s see how you can still explain yourself back into some loving reality. Destructive strength, that destructs enemies as a form of protection, is a form of protection. During evolution such strength would be sought out, and destruction was a nonissue. Unlike anything before us, these days, we, humans, have the power for utter destruction, to destroy every other living form on this planet, except say algae as a food source, carefully monitored against mutations so that nothing smarter than us evolves. That would be a form of safety, a form of protection – wouldn’t it be wrong? But strength that can moderate without destruction, strength that allows and protects freedom, and fights for it, strength that is accepting of difference, is an even bigger strength. I hope you love other things than your very near immediate ego, be it yourself, your family, your nation, your people, or even just humanity. I hope your heart rejoices seeing salmon jump up waterfalls in their drive to spawn, I hope you love the cricket chirp, the bird songs, the grass rubbing up against your thighs, and even sharks feed or tigers chase, or snakes hunt. That is not destruction, that is harmony and balance. Living among other life, being part of other life, being a tiger, a chased antilope, a shark, a chased bunny, a cricket, a bird, all at once, being hungarian, spanish, native american, or african, chinese or indigenous australian all at the same time, caring about it all, caring aboust justice to all, justice to tigers, justice to sharks, justice to the bunnies, justice to the native americans, is what should make you a human being, whose power is bigger than destroying everything it could destroy.

  27. Kornelia says:

    Unfortunately, it seems most people have comletely misinterpreted this poem, or more tragically, completely misunderstood Crane’s message. Stephen Crane was vehement in his opposition to the idea of war and any of its implementations. The poem is intended to be ironic; ironic in the very words: “war is kind” for war is anything BUT kind, ironic in the scenes it depicts and ironic in its message, which is just a reiteration of what we are all told by society: that the courageousness, the romanticism, and the valor excuses the brutality, the destruction, and the murder of war. Crane felt that war was infantile, barbaic and useless. In this poem, society is revealed in its hypocracy, the human slaughter known as war revealed in all its tragic irony, and the mystery of heroism, the mystery of war, is revealed in all its…well, mystery.

  28. Brandon says:

    i think this poem justifies the man that fights the war…not those who look at it from the outside, in every situation the man dies and a loved one weeps or wutever. but the reason for his dying is his justification his reason for life, to die a death in war and for a cause in war greater then himself would justify his existance, and in someway give self worth on an infatismal scale but the ourcome of his actions greater then u or i can imagine…so he is saying that war is kind, that it some how pleases the mind of those who fight it, not those who sit in a counch and say oh my wut a terrible thing to do. or i could be completely wrong but thats my two cents on the poem

  29. Lindsey says:

    what does this poem mean? War is Kind what is it about i dont understand it.

  30. Nicole says:

    i really like this poem im doing a report on it and i love what everyone else has to say about it! ya’ll have helped me out a lot! thanks a bunch!!!!!

  31. Samantha says:

    I really liked this poem and have decided to read it in my Speech class tomorrow. And I just hope no one gets too confused!

  32. loooloooo says:

    war is a babe here in my room. war is a many spendid thing war. i live, love, lust for war

  33. Ian G. Morris says:

    In the poem “War is in Kind,” Stephen Crane is reasoning; he is caught between what society, culture, and honor say and teach, and what divine values preach (which is thou shall not kill). The poem leaves us in a state of confusion, which in essence, is what the poet sees as the most confusing and irrational–WAR.
    He is bringing to light the ridiculousness of people killing each other. Anybody that’s been in battle will tell you that war is not kind. But by seeing how misled and led astray the human race is, we realize that war is “Kind” because it is giving us an exit to a pompous and absurd world. For we are now in the realm of “The battle God.” And dwell among people who condone “the excellence of killing/ the virtue of slaughter.” The poet is just explaining how confusing the world is.

  34. Jack says:

    I don’t think you are entirely right about youre interpritation.

  35. Brenda Guzman says:

    It seems that war does not and never will have an admirable reputation. Many tragic outcomes come to realize when war is acted upon humanity. Survivors of war are the only individuals that endure the terrible pain and hold the truth of the cruel tactics of killing one another. So many survivors of war can write on paper their experiences and their deep thoughts of war, but to create an impact that will widespread to every reader can be possibly accomplished by creating a new form of writing manner, such an example was accomplished by Stephen Crane created in the 1890’s. It is declared that Crane wrote one of America’s first anti-war poems, “War is Kind.” The unusual style that Crane decided to express his feelings on how brutal and gruesome war is created a variety of clichés in his poem that are deliberate-have a point, a devastating point (Seldmen Rodman 31).

    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.

    The narrator begins to recount the death of the maiden’s lover. He depicts that the soldier on top of the horse fighting for what they were brought upon was shot to death and the horse, startled by the gunshot, ran on alone. The illustration produces an image of viciousness toward the men in war, but still the narrator requests to the maiden not to weep because war is kind. This shows that, the cynicism in this stanza strongly informs the reader what sane person might say these cruel words to a devastated maiden who had just lost her lover in war. However, this creates an impact, it enlightens the reader to think beyond what the poet wrote. The cruel death of the soldier describes tragic incidents that take place during war.
    During times of war in the past centuries horses have been powerful instruments to soldiers. These instruments led the way to victory without even knowing it. The narrator also declares that they thirst for fight:

    Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment,
    Little souls who thirst for fight,
    These men were born to drill and die,

    These animals are forced to undergo the cruelty of war, but nonetheless the narrator implies that they crave for fight. He continues with the men affirming that they were destined to use killing instruments and kill. Surely the sarcasm is duly noted; by no means a human is born to cause such acts such as war. Along with the unexplained glory, the men are glorified at the battlefield. The mockery clearly states that there is no glory in the battlefield.

    Great is the battle-god, great, and his kingdom-
    A field where a thousand corpses lie.

    The battle-god and his kingdom illustrate the malice of battle, although disguising the battle-god as a great god and mentioning his kingdom serves as a cliché for “War is Kind”.

    The third stanza depicts another tragic incident of a soldier’s death in warfare, nevertheless this occurs to a daughter’s father. Her father raged at his breast, gulped and died (“War is kind”, Crane).

    Do not weep, babe, for war is kind
    Because your father tumbled in the yellow trenches,

    The scene is situated in a trench where it seems there was an attack of in all probability a poisonous gas, which gives the impression that the father suffocated. The narrator the reader visualizes the brutal death of the soldier trying to grasp on to his life, but he can no longer resist the pain and unintentionally endows his life to death. The narrator repeats the same previous words he advised to the maiden:

    Do not weep
    War is kind.

    There is no virtue from slaughter and the excellence of killing, which is a request that the narrator solicits to the soldiers. The derision has an upsetting line of reasoning towards war. How can someone pursue a soldier that war is noble and with the intention of brilliance in killing?

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

    This scene was written to create impassive feelings toward the deceased son. The bright splendid shroud portrays as a joyful object, although the death of a loved one is terrible incident to take place. In company with the final words, “Do not weep”, forms the style that Crane had begun with this poem.

    Stephen Crane sought to express his thoughts concerning the cruelty and wrong doings of war. The result was an incredibly ironic poem. The poem depicts a series of explanations given to the relatives or lovers who had just passed away in war. The narrator, the army, describes the scene and the harsh conditions the soldier endured during combat, thus creating irony that war was not gentle toward the soldier. Through the use of refrain lines and alliteration, Crane is capable to put across the satirical message that war is kind.

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