November 1, 2013

Birth of Stephen Crane: Here I stay and wait

Born in Newark, New Jersey, on November 1, 1871, Stephen Crane went on to live a life where he seldom kept in one place for long. His parents were active in the church community and local religious-inspired causes; his father was a Methodist minister (the family moved a few times as he took jobs at different churches) and his mother worked with a local Christian Temperance Union. The Cranes had 14 children; Stephen was the last.

Young Stephen Crane was a sickly child and his parents questioned his weakness. He became interested in poetry early and wrote one asking for a dog when he was 8 years old. It was at that age that he began his schooling with the death of his father. He was left in the care of various relatives amid various deaths of family members and his mother possibly suffering from mental illness. He enrolled at boarding schools and, as a teenager, started writing for a news bureau with his brother.

Crane considered a military career but was persuaded to try college instead. He briefly attended Lafayette College in Pennsylvania then Syracuse University in New York but declared college "a waste of time." Instead, he turned to writing (and wandering). He met Hamlin Garland, who was traveling for a lecture, and the two discussed William Dean Howells and literary realism. Garland's was named on the dedication page on Crane's first book of poetry. By the end of his life when he died in Germany at age 28, Crane would have traveled the globe, become embroiled with various scandals and controversies, and struggled to move past his early fame from his book The Red Badge of Courage.

Poem titled "XXIII" from The Black Riders and Other Lines (1895), which was originally published solely with capital letters:

Places among the stars,
Soft gardens near the sun,
Keep your distant beauty;
Shed no beams upon my weak heart.
Since she is here
In a place of blackness,
Not your golden days
Nor your silver nights
Can call me to you.
Since she is here
In a place of blackness,
Here I stay and wait

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