The Black Riders and Other Lines, Stephen Crane
The Black Riders and Other Lines
Stephen Crane
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The Black Riders and Other Lines is a book of poetry written by American author Stephen Crane (1871–1900). It was first published in 1895 by Copeland & Day. In the winter of 1893, Crane borrowed a suit from John Northern Hilliard and visited the critic and editor William Dean Howells, who introduced Crane to the poetry of Emily Dickinson. Crane was inspired by her writing and, within several months, wrote the beginnings of what became his first book of poetry.

The Black Riders and Other Lines

Stephen Crane


Black Riders came from the sea.
There was clang and clang of spear and shield,
And clash and clash of hoof and heel,
Wild shouts and the wave of hair
In the rush upon the wind:
Thus the ride of Sin.


Three little birds in a row
Sat musing.
A man passed near that place.
Then did the little birds nudge each other.
They said, “He thinks he can sing.”
They threw back their heads to laugh,
With quaint countenances
They regarded him.
They were very curious,
Those three little birds in a row.


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.”


Yes, I have a thousand tongues,
And nine and ninety-nine lie.
Though I strive to use the one,
It will make no melody at my will,
But is dead in my mouth.


Once there came a man
Who said,
“Range me all men of the world in rows.”
And instantly
There was terrific clamor among the people
Against being ranged in rows.
There was a loud quarrel, world-wide.
It endured for ages;
And blood was shed
By those who would not stand in rows,
And by those who pined to stand in rows,
Eventually, the man went to death, weeping.
And those who staid in bloody scuffle
Knew not the great simplicity.


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