Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Stephen Crane

American Novelist, Short-Story Writer, Poet, War Correspondent and Poet

"Indifference is a militant thing. It batters down the walls of cities and murders the women and children amid the flames and the purloining of altar vessels."

"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.” "

"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."

"The wayfarer Perceiving the pathway to truth, Was struck with astonishment. It was thickly grown with weeds. “Ha,” he said, 5 “I see that none has passed here In a long time.” Later he saw that each weed Was a singular knife. “Well,” he mumbled at last, 10 “Doubtless there are other roads."

"In the night Gray, heavy clouds muffled the valleys, And the peaks looked toward God alone. “O Master, that movest the wind with a finger, Humble, idle, futile peaks are we. Grant that we may run swiftly across the world To huddle in worship at Thy feet.” In the morning A noise of men at work came the clear blue miles, And the little black cities were apparent. “O Master, that knowest the meaning of raindrops, Humble, idle, futile peaks are we. Give voice to us, we pray, O Lord, That we may sing Thy goodness to the sun.” In the evening The far valleys were sprinkled with tiny lights. “O Master, Thou that knowest the value of kings and birds, Thou hast made us humble, idle, futile peaks. Thou only needest eternal patience; We bow to Thy wisdom, O Lord— Humble, idle, futile peaks.” In the night Gray, heavy clouds muffled the valleys, And the peaks looked toward God alone. "

"I explain the silvered passing of a ship at night, The sweep of each sad lost wave, The dwindling boom of the steel thing’s striving, The little cry of a man to a man, A shadow falling across the grayer night, And the sinking of the small star; Then the waste, the far waste of waters, And the soft lashing of black waves For long and in loneliness. Remember, thou, O ship of love, Thou leavest a far waste of waters, And the soft lashing of black waves For long and in loneliness."

"There was a land where lived no violets. A traveller at once demanded: “Why?” The people told him: “Once the violets of this place spoke thus: ‘Until some woman freely gives her lover To another woman We will fight in bloody scuffle.’” Sadly the people added: “There are no violets here.”"

"A youth in apparel that glittered Went to walk in a grim forest. There he met an assassin Attired all in garb of old days; He, scowling through the thickets, And dagger poised quivering, Rushed upon the youth. “Sir,” said this latter, “I am enchanted, believe me. To die thus, In this mediæval fashion, According to the best legends; Ah, what joy!” Then took he the wound, smiling, And died, content."

"Once I knew a fine song, —It is true, believe me,— It was all of birds, And I held them in a basket; When I opened the wicket, Heavens! they all flew away. I cried, “Come back, Little Thoughts!” But they only laughed. They flew on Until they were as sand Thrown between me and the sky."

"Once I saw mountains angry, And ranged in battle-front. Against them stood a little man; Ay, he was no bigger than my finger. I laughed, and spoke to one near me, “Will he prevail?” “Surely,” replied this other; “His grandfathers beat them many times.” Then did I see much virtue in grandfathers,— At least, for the little man Who stood against the mountains."

"These stupid peasants, who, throughout the world, hold potentates on their thrones, make statesmen illustrious, provide generals with lasting victories, all with ignorance, indifference, or half-witted hatred, moving the world with the strength of their arms, and getting their heads knocked together, in the name of God, the king, or the stock exchange—immortal, dreaming, hopeless asses, who surrender their reason to the care of a shining puppet, and persuade some toy to carry their lives in his purse."

"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."

"A learned man came to me once. He said, I know the way, - come. And I was overjoyed at this. Together we hastened, soon, too soon, were we where my eyes were useless, and I knew not the ways of me feet. I clung to the hand of my friend; but at last he cried, I am lost."

"A man feared that he might find an assassin; Another that he might find a victim. One was wiser than the other."

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

"A serious prophet upon predicting a flood should be the first man to climb a tree. This would demonstrate that he was indeed a seer."

"A singular disadvantage of the sea lies in the fact that after successfully surmounting one wave you discover another behind it just as important and just as nervously anxious to do something effective in the way of swamping boats. In a ten-foot dinghy one can get an idea of the resources of the sea in the line of waves that is not probable to the average experience, which is never at sea in a dinghy."

"As he gazed around him the youth felt a flash of astonishment at the blue, pure sky and the sun gleamings on the trees and fields. It was surprising that Nature had gone tranquilly on with her golden process in the midst of so much devilment."

"As the landscape changed from brown to green, the army awakened, and began to tremble with eagerness at the noise of rumors."

"At times he regarded the wounded soldiers in an envious way. He conceived persons with torn bodies to be peculiarly happy. He wished that he, too, had a wound, a red badge of courage."

"But he said, in substance, to himself that if the earth and moon were about to clash, many persons would doubtless plan to get upon the roofs to witness the collision."

"Do not weep, babe, for war is kind. Because your father tumbled in the yellow trenches, raged at his breast, gulped and died, do not weep. War is kind."

"Every sin is the result of collaboration."

"Half of tradition is a lie."

"He had been to touch the great death, and found that, after all, it was but the great death. He was a man."

"He had fought like a pagan who defends his religion."

"He saw that it was an ironical thing for him to be running thus toward that which he had been at such pains to avoid."

"He vaguely desired to walk around and around the body and stare; the impulse of the living to try to read in dead eyes the answer to the Question."

"He wishes that he, too, had a wound, a red badge of courage."

"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."

"Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment, little souls who thirst for fight, these men were born to drill and die. The unexplained glory flies above them, great is the battle-god, great, and his kingdom — a field where a thousand corpses lie."

"I accosted the man. "It is futile," I said, "You can never” — "You lie," he cried, and ran on."

"I don't like my hands tied. I am in misery. What did I say I am?"

"I saw a man pursuing the horizon; round and round they sped. I was disturbed at this; I accosted the man. It is futile, I said, “You can never- You lie” he cried, and ran on."

"If I am going to be drowned -- if I am going to be drowned -- if I am going to be drowned, why, in the name of the seven mad gods, who rule the sea, was I allowed to come thus far and contemplate sand and trees?"

"If I should cast off this tattered coat, and go free into the mighty sky; if I should find nothing there but a vast blue, echoless, ignorant,-What then?"

"If there is a witness to my little life, to my tiny throes and struggles, he sees a fool; and it is not fine for gods to menace fools."

"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.""

"It perhaps might be said--if any one dared--that the most worthless literature of the world has been that which has been written by the men of one nation concerning the men of another."

"It rained. The procession of weary soldiers became a bedraggled train, despondent and muttering, marching with churning effort in a trough of liquid brown mud under a low, wretched sky. Yet the youth smiled, for he saw that the world was a world for him, though many discovered it to be made of oaths and walking sticks. He had rid himself of the red sickness of battle. The sultry nightmare was in the past. He had been an animal blistered and sweating in the heat and pain of war. He turned now with a lover's thirst to images of tranquil skies, fresh meadows, cool brooks — an existence of soft and eternal peace."

"It was not well to drive men into final corners; at those moments they could all develop teeth and claws."

"It was surprising that Nature had gone tranquilly on with her golden process in the midst of so much devilment."

"It would be difficult to describe the subtle brotherhood of men that was here established on the seas. No one said that it was so. No one mentioned it. But it dwelt in the boat, and each man felt it warm him. They were a captain, an oiler, a cook, and a correspondent, and they were friends, friends in a more curiously iron-bound degree than may be common. The hurt captain, lying against the water-jar in the bow, spoke always in a low voice and calmly, but he could never command a more ready and swiftly obedient crew than the motley three of the dingey. It was more than a mere recognition of what was best for the common safety. There was surely in it a quality that was personal and heartfelt. And after this devotion to the commander of the boat there was this comradeship that the correspondent, for instance, who had been taught to be cynical of men, knew even at the time was the best experience of his life. But no one said that it was so. No one mentioned it."

"Mother, whose heart hung humble as a button the bright splendid shroud of your son, do not weep. War is kind. Because your lover threw wild hands toward the sky and the affrighted steed ran on alone, do not weep. Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment, Little souls who thirst for fight, These men were born to drill and die. The unexplained glory flies above them, Great is the battle-god, great, and his kingdom -A field where a thousand corpses lie. Do not weep, babe, for war is kind."

"Nevertheless, he had, on a certain star-lit evening, said wonderingly and quite reverently: Deh moon looks like hell, don't it?"

"None of them knew the color of the sky. Their eyes glanced level, and were fastened upon the waves that swept toward them. These waves were of the hue of slate, save for the tops, which were of foaming white, and all of the men knew the colors of the sea. The horizon narrowed and widened, and dipped and rose, and at all times its edge was jagged with waves that seemed thrust up in points like rocks."

"One viewed the existence of man then as a marvel, and conceded a glamor of wonder to these lice which were caused to cling to a whirling, fire-smote, ice-locked, disease-stricken, space-lost bulb."

"Over the river a golden ray of sun came through the hosts of leaden rain clouds."

"Perhaps an individual must consider his own death to be the final phenomenon of nature."

"She thinks my name is Freddie, you know, but of course it ain't. I always tell these people some name like that, because if they got onto your right name they might use it sometime. Understand?"