There are a number of persistent themes that run through Crane's poems. Among the most noticeable are human nature, love and the exploration of man's relations to God, religion, truth, and nature, mostly with a strong undercurrent of irony. Whatever he is writing about, though, there is one feature common to nearly every poem - it makes the reader *think*. Crane is a master of the paradigm shift, the few words that suddenly twist the reader's world view around, exposing paradox and uncertainty where before was only smooth complacency. 'Zen' is a badly overused word, and I won't pretend to know what it properly means, but Crane certainly fits the public perception of what Zen should be - thought provoking, leaving no assumption unchallenged, and with multiple meanings and dichotomies coexisting in every piece. A final note - the piece above is an excerpt from a larger work, 'The Black Riders and Other Lines'. Like Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat, it is a series of somewhat disconnected short pieces, but, again like the Rubaiyat, the pieces take on a whole new dimension when read together - not necessarily as a larger 'whole', but simply because each piece develops and reinforces the themes, the images and the atmosphere of all the rest. A link to the complete text of the Black Riders is included below. Note: The poem was untitled, being merely verse III of The Black Riders; I merely used the first line as a title. Biography: Crane, Stephen b. Nov. 1, 1871, Newark, N.J., U.S. d. June 5, 1900, Badenweiler, Baden, Ger. American novelist, poet, and short-story writer, best known for his novels Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893) and The Red Badge of Courage (1895) and the short stories "The Open Boat," "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky," and "The Blue Hotel." For a complete biography see <http://www.rdlthai.com/ellsa_cranebio.html> Assessment: After The Red Badge of Courage, Crane's few attempts at the novel were of small importance, but he achieved an extraordinary mastery of the short story. [...] In the best of these tales Crane showed a rare ability to shape colourful settings, dramatic action, and perceptive characterization into ironic explorations of human nature and destiny. In even briefer scope, rhymeless, cadenced and "free" in form, his unique, flashing poetry was extended into War Is Kind (1899). Stephen Crane first broke new ground in Maggie, which evinced an uncompromising (then considered sordid) realism that initiated the literary trend of the succeeding generations--i.e., the sociological novels of Frank Norris, Theodore Dreiser, and James T. Farrell. Crane intended The Red Badge of Courage to be "a psychological portrayal of fear," and reviewers rightly praised its psychological realism. The first nonromantic novel of the Civil War to attain widespread popularity, The Red Badge of Courage turned the tide of the prevailing convention about war fiction and established a new, if not unprecedented, one. The secret of Crane's success as war correspondent, journalist, novelist, short-story writer, and poet lay in his achieving tensions between irony and pity, illusion and reality, or the double mood of hope contradicted by despair. Crane was a great stylist and a master of the contradictory effect. -- EB Links: Complete text of 'The Black Riders and Other Lines' can be found at the Poets' Corner, <[broken link] http://geocities.com/~spanoudi/poems/crane02.html>. There's also a nice paragraph on why Crane is poetry, though, quoting from the site, "Crane himself declined to call them poems, referring to them only as 'lines'." There's a Crane site at <[broken link] http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~mmaynard/Crane/crane.html> and a nice biographical snippet at <[broken link] http://www.spanam.simplenet.com/crane.htm> m.