Behold, the grave of a wicked man

Behold, the grave of a wicked man
by Stephen Crane

Behold, the grave of a wicked man,
And near it, a stern spirit.
There came a drooping maid with violets,
But the spirit grasped her arm.
“No flowers for him,” he said.
The maid wept:
“Ah, I loved him.”
But the spirit, grim and frowning:
“No flowers for him.”

Now, this is it —
If the spirit was just,
Why did the maid weep?

____________________________

In this short poem, Crane asks the reader why a maiden was weeping over someone who was wicked. The answer is obvious. She loved him. For her, there was more to his life than his lack of justice.

Answering the question posed by the poem creates more questions: If we can love those who are wicked, then should we? Do we? How much? On what grounds?

The poem may also stir in the reader another question when returning to the text: Can a spirit be just if it chastises the living for mourning the wicked dead? Is there a better measure for the judgment of a person’s life than determining whether he or she acted morally?

These are hard questions to answer. But are the questions not of vital importance?

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