Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Analysis: War Is Kind

War Is Kind
By: Stephen Crane

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
                Little souls who thirst for fight,
                These men were born to drill and die.
                The unexplained glory flies above
                Great is the battle-god, great, and his
                A field where a thousand corpses lie.

Do not weep, babe, for war is kind.
Because your father tumbled in the yellow
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 the slaughter,
                  Make plain to them the excellence of killing
                And a field where a thousand corpses

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

With all that is on the news these days and that many of us know those that are in the military, I figure this poem is applicable to how a lot of us feel. Stephen Crane was a journalist and had seen many conflicts. He had even tried to enlist but due to his poor health he was not accepted. Although this poem was written in 1899 this critical view of war still resonates with many of us today.

The first part of stanzas one, three, and five are trying to console the survivors of these fallen men but also taking care to not glorify their deaths. Stephen Crane makes note to show the ugly deaths these men faced so that we understand the savagery and cruelty which war inflicts. He tells these survivors to not weep. I think this is an interesting part of this poem because why shouldn't people weep for their lost ones. You can take this a couple of different ways but to me it seems that through all the ugliness we are not to weep, for war supposedly has a purpose. This purpose is always vague at best.

In stanzas two and four, Stephen Crane goes on to describe the war and it's "purpose". The men who we are introduced to in the odd numbered stanzas are called to war and glory by their "battle-god". Their purpose as far as war is concerned is to "drill and die" until the last man standing can claim victory and "glory". This victory leads only to a field of corpses.

Finally, in the last stanza, we are faced with the Mother burying her son with his "bright splendid shroud". What consolation does this shroud bring when war has taken everything. Her son received the "glory" of a battlefield death and what good has that served? As I mentioned above, what victory is there in a field of corpses.

This poem causes me to reflect on the current state of affairs in our country as well as many others. Why are we in war? What purpose does it serve these days? What of our "battle-god[s]"? Do we have any say in these conflicts? Or are we merely meant to "drill and die" so that our country may have "glory"?

Keep in mind I am in full support of our military men and women. I believe in having a military to protect and defend us. I do not believe in policing the world, which is what our country has done via the UN since after World War II. We nearly lost an entire generation of men during Vietnam. With Desert Storm, The War on Drugs, The War on Terror, and now the "Conflicts" in yet more parts of the world. I can't help but think what purpose are these wars actually serving. And while we fight these wars, what of our homes? Our culture is so focused on the bright and shiny convenient things in the world rather than things of substance. We are polluting our planet. We are eating poisons. We are forgetting how to communicate unless there is an electronic device involved. I can continue but I think you catch my drift. When I read this poem these are the things that come to my mind.

To me, this poem is a call to action. We as a people need to face the harsh realities of our wars. That real men and women are putting their lives on the line out there and it's not make believe. We need to take a stand and help them survive even if we don't always agree with our "battle-god[s]". We need to take a stand and tell our "battle-god[s]" that there is no glory if there is no home to come back to. Every person in a family (whether you are blood related or not) makes up a home and it isn't the same without each and every person there. Our families make us strong, which makes our country strong. So I say bring our men and women home to fix our own mess of a culture before we start "helping" others fix theirs via the kindness of war.

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