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The Black Riders and Other Lines.
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CRANE, Stephen.

The Black Riders and Other Lines.

Published: Boston: Copeland and Day, 1895

Stock code: 85149

Price: £875

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First edition, first printing; one of 500 copies of this first book of poems by writer Stephen Crane (1871-1900), who is more generally noted for novels such as his acclaimed Civil War tale The Red Badge of Courage, published in the same year as this collection. Crane was a prolific writer of poetry, though only in private at first, writing five or six poems a day. In 1894 he showed some of these to American writer Hamlin Garland (to whom his book is dedicated), who read them “with growing wonder”. With Garland’s encouragement, Crane secured publication from Copeland & Day, though not without a struggle which delayed publication until around the same time as The Red Badge of Courage, Crane’s verses being highly unconventional for the time in their lack of any consistent rhyme or metre. In this, and in their spiritual scope, the verses share something with Blake, and also, in sentiment, something with Beaudelaire, being bred from a sort of vicious piety. Perhaps the best in the collection is: “In the desert / I saw a creature, naked, bestial, / who, squatting upon the ground, / held his heart in his hands, and ate of it. / I said, “Is it good, friend?” / “It is bitter- bitter,” he answered; / “But I like it / because it is bitter, / and because it is my heart.”” There is some bibliographical debate as to whether The Black Riders was published just before or just after The Red Badge of Courage; Stallman cites broken type and an April 1896 advertisement in The Bookman to support his claim that this issue appeared on the heels of The Red Badge of Courage, Joe Kraus, in his bibliography of Copeland and Day, locates page proofs dated March, 1895, putting it before. If the latter is so, then as well as being Crane’s first poetry collection, it is also his second published book and the first book published under his own name, following his pseudonymously published first book, Maggie.

12mo. Publisher’s binding (signed by Dudley & Hodge) of grey paper over boards, black titles, and an art-nouveau orchid design to both sides. With the original unprinted dust wrapper. Covers faintly spotted, front joint splitting from the bottom, small split to spine from the head, mild foxing to edges and some leaves; a very good copy in the creased jacket with small splits at the corners and some loss to tail.

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