Stephen Crane's "War is Kind" is an ironic--even satiric at times--meditation in free verse upon the cruelties, waste, and senselessness of war.
Replete with verbal irony [saying one thing, but meaning another], Crane's poem points to the absurdity of thinking that there is any real glory in the death of hundreds and thousands of young men in the prime of their lives:
Great is the Battle-God, great, and his Kingdom...
A field where a thousand corpses lie....
These men were born to drill and die,
Point for them the virtue of slaughter
The element of irony is also present in this poem as Crane ridicules the platitudes of the military by using them in conjunction with cruel images of war.
- There is glory in war for men "born to drill and die"
- There is a Battle-God whose "Kingdom" includes a thousand corpses
- There is beauty in war: "Swift blazing flag/Eagle with crest of red and gold" flies for "the virtue of slaughter"
- There is a "splendid shroud" for killed soldiers
Certainly, Crane ridicules the phrases and names that glorify something as murderous and destructive as war. And, with irony, Crane points out the following:
- War is anything but kind; it is horrific.
- There is nothing heroic about dying
- It is a waste of life to die in battle,
- There is nothing "splendid" about a shroud.
Indeed, Stephen Crane's poem is extremely effective in its biting irony.