Poetic Spotlight: Fast rode the knight

Formal portrait of Stephen Crane, taken in Was...

Public Domain portrait of Stephen Crane; image itself via Wikimedia Commons.

This week’s poetic spotlight falls on an ode to the changing of an age, to the death of the dream-like chivalry to which man once clung, and the rise of the horror of grim reality. “Fast rode the knight” is a famous work by one Stephen Crane, an American novelist, short story writer, poet and (this journalist’s heart be still) journalist. He was a hallmark of the late 19th century, and one of the foremost examples of the rise of the realist tradition in literature. He is perhaps best known, however, for his novel, The Red Badge of Courage, which is still wide-read in classrooms today.

But then, this little poem has a special place in my heart. This particular work, capturing as it does so perfectly the death of romanticism, once inspired and spawned from a more modern inspiration/incarnation by my own hand titled “Beside the Trenches,” a poem revolving around another great waking moment in man’s history: WWI. But now, without further adieu, I give you Crane’s original:

“Fast rode the knight”

Fast rode the knight
With spurs, hot and reeking,
Ever waving an eager sword,
“To save my lady!”
Fast rode the knight,
And leaped from saddle to war.
Men of steel flickered and gleamed
Like riot of silver lights,
And the gold of the knight’s good banner
Still waved on a castle wall.
. . . . .
A horse,
Blowing, staggering, bloody thing,
Forgotten at foot of castle wall.
A horse
Dead at foot of castle wall.

~Stephen Crane

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