Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind Analysis

Stephen Crane

The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind” is Stephen Crane’s poem about war and its aftermath. In twenty-six lines, the persona of the poem addresses the loved ones of the soldiers who died on the battlefield amid mayhem and chaos. Crane’s use of blank verse is well suited for the subject of war because it lacks the harmonious patterns of rhyme and meter. The poem is composed of five stanzas, and the indented beginning of the second and fourth stanzas characterize a change in setting. While the first, third, and fifth stanzas focus on the survivors of dead soldiers, the indented stanzas graphically depict scenes of the battlefield. The refrain gives a structural unity to the entire poem as it consistently appears before and after each stanza: “Do not weep./ War is kind.” This chorus of two lines helps to connect the emotional experience with the actual experience of war.

The poem begins with the pain of separation between a maiden and her lover who died on the battlefield. To heighten the tragic effect, the persona describes the last moment of the dying lover who “threw wild hands toward the sky” in a frantic state as he fell from his horse while “the affrighted steed ran on alone.” A perceptive reader will note the ambivalent tone of the persona: On one hand, there is sympathy for the maiden’s unfulfilled love; on the other hand, there is sympathy for the soldier’s agony whose death marks a moment of escape from the painful state of...

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Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The title of the poem resonates with irony as it juxtaposes tears with kindness and invites the reader to connect the brutal image of war to a kind reality despite the brutal setting of a battlefield. Although the poet does not address the readers directly, he allows them to witness scenes of tragic separation between the maiden and her lover, between the child and the father, and between the mother and her son to enhance the ironic effect. The irony of the poem contrasts the expected reaction of the mourners who suffer the pangs of separation with the unexpected outcome for the fallen soldiers who are freed from their emotional and physical trauma by death. The pervasive sense of loss for a loved one makes the title sound like an understatement, thus announcing the ironic intent of the author. At the same time, the psychological and physical condition of the falling soldiers ridicules the notion of romantic heroism that disregards the realism of the battlefield where the presence of death can promise relief.

In addition to the contrasting images, which contribute to the ironic effect, Crane makes powerful use of symbol and simile to enhance the realism of the tragic outcome of war. Images such as the “wild hands” of the soldier mounted on “the affrighted steed” and “booming drums” symbolize the emotional state of men who are in a state of panic, anger, and fear. In the last stanza, the mourning mother’s “heart hung humble as a button”...

(The entire section is 451 words.)


(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

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