In Stephen Crane's "War is Kind," what is the symbolic meaning of "a field where a thousand corpses lie?"
Though not a war veteran, Crane was a fearless war correspondent who dodged sniper fire to cover the war from a journalistic perspective. As such, Crane is often cited as a pre-Imagist poet, in that he frames his poems visually, as if his visual imagery were a series of photographs in a montage, or even a moving picture.
- In stanza 1, for instance, he zooms in to focus on the "lover."
- In stanza 2, he pulls back to a long shot of "the men" and finishes with an extreme long shot of "a thousand corpses." Gone with the Wind likewise has a high angle extreme long shot of the carnage of the Civil War.
- In stanza 3, he zooms in to "your father"
- In stanza 4, he pulls back to "these men" again
- In stanza 5, he zooms in to "mother"
So, the symbolic meaning goes back and forth from the individual (1) to the collective (2).
If this is symbolic, it is just that the actual field with a thousand corpses is used as a symbol for all fields of battle in general. The field with a thousand corpses is said to be the kingdom of the battle god.
What Crane is saying here is that the god of battle is not really all that glorious -- not the way he is made out to be. Instead, what you get for following this god is fields full of corpses.
So, the field is a symbol for all battlefields and it is meant to reinforce the main point of the poem -- that war causes only death.