Study Guide

War Is Kind Warfare

By Stephen Crane

Warfare

Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment, (6)

War sure is noisy, ain't it? The "booming" of the drums makes us think of bombs, shells, guns, explosions, and other destructive weapons. The speaker is so obsessed with war, or has spent so much time fighting, that even something as simple as a drum resembles a weapon.

Little souls who thirst for fight,
These men were born to drill and die (7-8)

War has made the speaker into a very callous man. He doesn't even see his soldiers as real people, with hopes and dreams of their own; they're just "little souls" who were always destined to die on the battlefield. These lines suggest a certain cynicism on the part of our speaker, but they raise a fair point—those who participate in war, the soldiers on the ground, often have little control over their fates. They're at the mercy of far greater forces.

Great is the battle-god, great, and his kingdom—
A field where a thousand corpses lie (10-11)

Well this is a scathing critique of war mongering if we ever saw one. The battle-god might as well be a coded reference to anybody who controls, directs, or instigates wars. He's got a fine kingdom all right, a field with a bunch of corpses. Some kingdom. Sheesh.

Do not weep, babe, for war is kind.
Because your father tumbles in the yellow trenches,
Raged at his breast, gulped and died, (12-14)

The slant rhyme on "kind" and "died" is interesting here. The whole kindness of war has something to do with death, which is another way of saying it's not kind at all. Zing. This is some pretty gnarly irony, Mr. Crane.

Point for them the virtue of slaughter,
Make plain to them the excellence of killing
And a field where a thousand corpses lie. (20-22)

The speaker's ideas here are incredibly dark and cruel. Killing and slaughter are not excellent or virtuous by any means. One could argue that according to our poet, people who think like this are partly to blame for the existence of war in the first place, and they're the ones who keep wars going.

Mother whose heart hung humble as a button
On the bright splendid shroud of your son, (23-24)

The simile of the mother's heart being as humble as a button is one of the saddest moments in the whole poem. It makes her seem oh so powerless in the face of the forces of war.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...