The Mountain, the Moon, and the Rider

(Dedicated to Stephen Crane)

The Mountain under the marble Moon
speaks to that blind assassin
whose cold shards impinge
upon a brave rider’s heart, and asks:

“Why dost thou not strike a flame
from off thy flinty eyes and lend a light
to this lost child that wends through thickets
of devils to reach the gardens of her gods?”

“Fool!” cries the Moon in pale fury, “the devils
are her gods and hence, my stony countenance
notwithstanding, I refrain from giving aid
to those who seek her bitter demise.”

The rider unaware of all but her own desire, puzzled
o’er the Moon’s cold stare and the Mountain heaving
‘neath her horse’s feet as if to urge her retreat,
yet rides on breathing, “Brotherhood for all!”

Now she hears a melody bewitching strong
as near a tomb o’erlaid with dew she spies a stranger
with a grinning mask of Pharaoh’s gold singing,
“Brotherhood for all,” and she hastily stops short.

Unease strikes her restless heart, she wipes her fevered brow
glad for once of the Moon’s restraining sight,
the Mountain’s sudden shadowed dips, and decries
the siren’s call that had led her thus on such false hope.

For that golden mask she knew had enslaved far more
than greed or fame, and hid a braggart’s deceiving face
to lead to doom all those who brotherhood seek yet flinch
to own the One who came as brother to die upon a cross.

The Moon shone brightly now she turned, still breathing,
“Brotherhood to all,” and a Mountain toad among sweet violets
croaked when dawn came glistening o’er the dew as the Sun,
once dark to see its Maker’s pain, now sang a song of life.

This ballad is in honor of Stephen Crane, to whom Shay’s Word Garden List pays homage this week. Crane is best known for his novels, but invested most of his thought and philosophy in his singularly distinctive poetry. Please click on the link to read more of Crane whose overarching influence extends to our day. Shay asks that we choose at least three of the twenty words she’s chosen from his works. I think I managed to use all but two. Click here to join us at the Word Garden.

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26 thoughts on “The Mountain, the Moon, and the Rider

  1. I like that you alluded to the darkness at the moment of Christ’s death, and the sun appearing at the end. This poem contains so many of the devices that Crane used–the natural formations, the rider, and the subject speaking within the verses, not to mention the overarching spiritual theme. In so many of his poems, someone is searching for something, or questioning what they see. That’s all here, too. Thanks so much for being part of the Crane Word list, Dora!



    1. The Crane words you chose seemed to naturally evoke his thought, his manner, his preoccupations, so the credit, if any, goes to you. The clunkiness is my own but I’m so gratified that you recognized that allusion to the moment of Christ’s death, and your generous feedback is so very much appreciated. Crane is one of those writers who left an indelible imprint on my psyche. I truly had fun with this word garden, Shay. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s quite a challenge to pull off a poem in the language of Crane’s day and make it work so smoothly and surely–not an iota of affectation, just a mood that pierces like a cold fog with its own truth. Really well done, Dora, and really carries a lot of the feeling Crane brought to his work. I wanted very much to use some of the words you worked in so flawlessly, like “rider’ and “brave,” but just couldn’t make them seem true as you do here. The last stanza in particular is luminous.


    1. Having read your poetry, I’m not making the mistake of underestimating your ability to incorporate any word you pleased had you really wanted to so I’m not going there, my friend. But Crane is close to my heart so it was easy to recall his voice. In my early 20’s his voice seemed to be very present and there’s a dreamer’s vision or idealism he had that youth especially responds too. Appreciate so much your feedback on this piece. It helps to know if what you’re aiming for hits close or not. Glad you enjoyed it too 🙂


  3. A beautiful write, Dora, like a gothic fairytale. I read it several times. I love the different points of view you show us and yet we want the rider to succeed in her quest. The saying “it’s always darkest before the dawn” sprang to mind as I read. Very much enjoyed ❤


    1. Sunra, When we’re young we’re so easily deceived by our idealism and the wolves that prey on us as a result. The disillusionment that such a quest based on deception can bring is what I was shooting for, And yes, it’s always darkest before dawn. Thank you so much for your generous comments! 💞

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Susie Clevenger

    You have captured Crane’s style so well. “Fool!” cries the Moon in pale fury, “the devils
    are her gods and hence, my stony countenance notwithstanding, I refrain from giving aid to those who seek her bitter demise.” Love those lines. Amazing poem.


    1. Thank you so much, Susie. I hope you don’t mind that I quoted from your own word garden poem (along with Shay’s) for another post of mine, “Love and ‘The Sick Rose.'” It was written off the cuff but in total admiration for your poetic prowess. You never fail to inspire.


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