Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I will, then, be a toad.

"In 1894, Stephen Crane called on his friend, bringing a roll of manuscript for him to read. It was a group of poems he had written during the past few days, poems which amazed his friend with their power. When asked if he had any others, Crane replied,"I have four or five up here," and he pointed to his forehead, "all in a little row. That's the way they come - in little rows, all ready to be put down on paper." He had written nine the day before, and he "put down" another before he left.

"Crane, then twenty-two, was struggling to earn his living as a journalist.He himself had paid to publish his first novel, Maggie:A Girl of the Streets, and found no one wished to buy it. His life was miserable: he slept on the floor of a studio and had little certainty of eating three meals a day.

"He wanted to experience everything possible, to be a participant in whatever happened. He was an angry young man, in rebellion against easy respectibility and the genteel tradition. He had a fierce sense of justice and a hatred for cruelty, whether he found it in the vengeful God of his forefathers, or in man's inhumanity to man. He was determined to be his own judge of what was right or wrong. He placed kindness and integrity among the highest virtues and set for himself a heroic ideal. "There was in Crane a strain of chivalry," said Joseph Conrad, "which made him safe to trust with one's life."

A man said to the universe:
"Sir, I exist!"
"However," repied the universe,
"the fact has not created in me
"A sense of obligation."


"Think as I think," said a man,
"Or you are abominably wicked;
"You are a toad."

And after I had thought of it,
I said, "I will, then, be a toad."

Poems of Stephen Crane, Selected by Gerald D. MacDonald, Woodcuts by Nonny Hogrogian, First Edition, Second Printing ,1964. Offered for sale by Chewybooks as of July 14, 2010.

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