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Subject Of War In The Poems Of Whitman, Crane, Longfellow, And Sandburg

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Poetry & Poets

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When reading poetry on the subject of war, one's own feelings
regarding the subject are evoked. This makes it easier to feel the words
and what they say to you. Crane's selection, "War is Kind" presents a
dilemma from the outset as it uses two words "war" and "kind" that are
dissimilar. Crane then highlights acts of destruction and despair with the
"kindness" of war. He notes that a child should not weep when his father
was killed, "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." As if a child could think that someone who killed
his father was kind. Or he contrasts "virtue" with "slaughter" ("Point for
them the virtue of slaughter") and "excellence" with "killing." ("Make
plain to them the excellence of killing"). War may be honorable,
purposeful, or necessary, but it is not kind, there is no virtue in
slaughter, and there is no excellence in killing.
Whitman notes in "Beat! Drums! Beat!" that when war comes, everything
stops, including the sense and reason of the moment. No matter what is
happening, there is no excuse for attending to anything else. The urgency
of the moment rules. "Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the
houses? no sleepers must sleep in those beds", "Make no parley - stop for
no expostulation." "Let not the child's voice be heard, nor the mother's
entreaties, ...

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