Carl Sandburg: Stephen Crane


Before fame came to him he was scornful of it.
After fame arrived he was still scornful of it.
He asked himself how shall men of facts deal with poems,
and how shall men of poems deal with facts?
In London his woman filled fourteen cob pipes
with tobacco and stood them in a row on his
writing table each morning.
The day’s work was done and it was time to quit
when the last pipe was smoked.
He died far on a blue star hunting the answer
why steel is steel and mist is mist.


Sandburg (like me) was a fan of Crane. This is one of Sandburg’s best character study poems, I think.

Stephen Crane: 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.”

–from War is Kind

Stephen Crane: Black Riders LI


A man went before a strange God,–
The God of many men, sadly wise.
And the Deity thundered loudly,
Fat with rage, and puffing,
“Kneel, Mortal, and cringe
And grovel and do homage
To My particularly sublime majesty.”

The man fled.

Then the man went to another God,–
The God of his inner thoughts.
And this one looked at him
With soft eyes
Lit with infinite comprehension,
And said, “My poor child!”

–Stephen Crane, from
             The Black Riders
                and Other Lines

Stephen Crane: Black Riders XXVIII


“Truth,” said a traveller,
“Is a rock, a mighty fortress;
“Often have I been to it,
“Even to its highest tower,
“From whence the world looks black.”

“Truth,” said a traveller,
“Is a breath, a wind,
“A shadow, a phantom;
“Long have I pursued it,
“But never have I touched
“The hem of its garment.”

And I believed the second traveller;
For truth was to me
A breath, a wind,
A shadow, a phantom,
And never had I touched
The hem of its garment.

               –Stephen Crane,
                   from Black Riders and Other Lines