Thursday, March 13, 2008

"Fast Rode the Knight", by Stephen Crane

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.
I first linked to this poem because the imagery in the title caught my eye (it stood out among the masses of gushy love poems out there, at least). I enjoyed reading it because it was concise and had a clear yet deep message. The two contrasting stanzas of the poem served to create a powerful metaphor, which I'll talk about below.

The title in this poem refers, rather obviously, to its central image of a bold knight riding into battle. It evokes thoughts of glory and courage, and sounds kind of cliched (purposefully, to heighten the contrast later).

The knight in this poem is symbolic of boldness, ambition, and seeking of personal glory. Imagery is created in the first few lines, which depict the knight nobly riding across the plains, sword waving. Though he succeeds in his quest to rescue the maiden (or so I guess), he leaves his horse, dying and forgotten, by the castle wall. The whole poem is a metaphor for the oft-ignored negative effects that one person's quest for glory can have on others. This is established by the contrasting images of knight and horse, which show the reader how the horse is miserable despite the knight's personal success. Feeling is created by the connotations of words--the knight's stanza is filled with positive connotations, while the description of the horse evokes anguish, loneliness, and sorrow.

The tone in the first stanza is that of a medieval storyteller--the knight is glorified as he charges into the castle to save the damsel in distress. In the second stanza, the tone shifts completely, showing the horse's miserable perspective on things. The tone is created by the connotations of words.

1 comment:

Stef said...

Whoa. That's actually really intense for such a short poem! And the imagery is totally gross. I think it's totally true that someone's quest for anything will hurt others somehow in the end. I wonder if there is a way around that, or if everything we do in life has negative consequences?