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Peace and Love!

J Hart F

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My First Favorite Poem

Many workmen
Built a huge ball of masonry
Upon a mountain-top.
Then they went to the valley below,
And turned to behold their work.
"It is grand," they said;
They loved the thing.

Of a sudden, it moved:
It came upon them swiftly;
It crushed them all to blood.
But some had opportunity to squeal.

By Stephen Crane (I don't know when it was published)

It's kinda funny, isn't it. Kinda sad too, but so relevant to many periods in life. I'm just going to ramble on here about what I think this poem means, how it is significant, so stay with my while my mind works. I'm it may sound unrefined, and that's how I want it today. It's sort of how I need it today, no structure, no rules, just my thoughts pouring freely.

Being introduced to "Many workmen" is obviously very important. Who are these workmen? Are they a representation of the human condition, where we are working forever to sustain our way of life, to find a happiness, a joy, a sense of security in troubled times? Reading through many of Crane's other poetry, he seems to delve a lot on religion; God most specifically (though referencing this deity as 'god' as apposed to 'God', which is an interesting turn for someone who may or may not have been religious. If this poem is then about religion, the workmen are either the clergy or the worshipers. Clergymen build faith for their congregations, and sometimes hold their positions as sacred, as being closer (possibly) to god, thus the "mountain-top". If this is then a critique on faith, religion and religious institutions, then the "valley below" is where we are, where we must live apart from the divine. The clergy and the church then have built up something so heavy, so devastating, that when it comes down upon them there's nothing to protect their own skins. People will criticize and diminish what the clergy have created, and perhaps spin there own interpretation of the church they so clung to. Revolts, death, massacre, martyrdom, etc.; all rising from a belief system created by workmen, by the church and its immediate peoples.

However, if the "workmen" aren't a manifestation of the church's representatives, then who are they? Could they simply be man, humankind? What have we, as humankind built then? Surely buildings and institutions and wealth, etc. etc. etc.; but it all amounts to the Earth, the world. And we've built it up so much, done so many things to it that we're proud of. Yes, we are proud that we have cars that get us from point A to point B in X amount of time, regardless of the true cost of manufacturing the parts to the cars and shipping them so we can build the cars and ship them somewhere else so they can consume a seemingly (though not really) endless amount of petroleum to kill the atmosphere. And what will happen when the earth comes down "upon [us] swiftly"? Well, we'll all die because we didn't truly see what we had done by building a "ball... Upon a mountain-top." And yes, there are those individuals who are squealing now, trying to stop us from damaging our Earth beyond repair. And what about them? Well...they die too.

Ultimately, I think this poem is hilarious. Its humor is well disguised as tragedy, for that is what it will be.

What do you think about it? I want to know your opinions.

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