Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Stephen Crane's creature in the desert

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.'

Stephen Crane 
( 1871 - 1900)

Stephen Crane, the son of a Methodist minister, was born in New Jersey. As he grew up he became aware of the irrelevance of his parents' religion in his life. At Syracuse University he spent his time playing baseball and engaging in social activities. 

Following dismissal from his job as a newspaper reporter for writing too sympathetically about a workers' strike he moved to New York's poverty stricken Bowery district where he met Hamlin Garland and W D Howells who were to influence his work. It was there that he wrote his first novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, which had to be self-published as no publisher would touch it. He is best known for The Red Badge of Courage the story of the effect of battle on one raw recruit in the American Civil War. 

In 1896 Crane joined a group of filibusterers going to Cuba to aid the revolutionaries. Crane was shipwrecked and spent 27 hours at sea in a small boat with 3 other men. His short story The Open Boat is an account of the fear, courage and endurance of this group. 

In 1897 he travelled to Greece and reported on the Greco-Turkish war. He lived in England and was friendly with Joseph Conrad and Henry James. 

In deteriorating health, following his reporting of the Spanish-American war from Cuba he returned to England and subsequently travelled  to Germany in the hope of finding a cure for his tuberculosis. It was there that he died, aged only 28, in June 1900. Despite his success as a novelist and a war correspondent Crane's preferred medium was poetry which he saw as a fuller form of his philosophy. 


  1. An interesting potted history of somebody I had never heard of Gwil. A rather terrifying poem and an even more lterrifying picture - if I have nightmares tonight I shall blame you.

  2. The 'terrifying picture' is made from modelling clay, Don't be alarmed.

  3. SC is a new to me. What an interesting bloke. And so modern. He could have lived his life (as you describe it and with a couple of name-changes) in the 1950s

  4. A brilliant and terrible poem.


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