Poetry 57: V (Once there came a man) by Stephen Crane


Once there came a man
Who said,
“Range me all men of the world in rows.”
And instantly
There was terrific clamour among the people
Against being ranged in rows.
There was a loud quarrel, world-wide.
It endured for ages;
And blood was shed
By those who would not stand in rows,
And by those who pined to stand in rows.
Eventually, the man went to death, weeping.
And those who staid in bloody scuffle
Knew not the great simplicity.

About Barry Daniel

I live in the Lake District in the UK where I run a guesthouse with my partner Kate and my cat Manuel. I enjoy painting, hillwalking, reading, visiting and entertaining friends, T’ai Chi and playing the guitar. I’m engaged to a certain degree in the local community, as a volunteer with Samaritans and I’m a fairly active member of the local Green party. I’ve had a relatively intuitive sense of the Middle Way most of my adult life but it found a greater articulation and a practical direction through joining the society. It’s also been interesting and great fun engaging with other people with a similar outlook. My main contribution to the society is conducting the podcast interviews, something that gives me a lot of satisfaction and that I’ve learnt a lot from.

One thought on “Poetry 57: V (Once there came a man) by Stephen Crane

  1. I think this poem is a wonderful Middle Way allegory on conflicting desires and incompatible reactive patterns.

    “Range me all the men of the world in rows”: it might be a mistake to hear these simple words as an order, maybe not even a request; perhaps just a line of half-remembered poetry, a half-formed idea, or the voice of a visionary.

    Those who hear it react at once with aversion to it or lust for it, and bloody chaos follows.

    Maybe the great simplicity endures, but many do not live to know it, because they do not listen when they hear it, and align themselves with its meaning.

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