Nathalia Clara Ruth Crane (11 August 1913 – 22 October 1998) was a poet and novelist who became famous as a child prodigy after the publication of her first book of poetry at age 10. Her poetry was first published in The New York Sun when she was only 9 years old, the paper unaware that she was a child. She later became a professor of English at San Diego State University.
- Lo and behold! God made this
The maggot and the mold; lo and
He taught the grass contentment
blade by blade,
The sanctity of sameness in a shade.
The Janitor's Boy And Other Poems (1924)
- Oh I'm in love with the janitor's boy,
And the janitor's boy loves me;
He's going to hunt for a desert isle
In our geography.
- "The Janitor's Boy"
- He'll carry me off, I know that he will,
For his hair is exceedingly red;
And the only thing that occurs to me
Is to dutifully shiver in bed.
- "The Janitor's Boy"
- I linger on the flathouse roof, the moonlight is divine.
But my heart is all aflutter like the washing on the line.
- "The Flathouse Roof"
- Once a pallid Vestal
Doubted truth in blue;
Listed red in ruin,
Harried every hue;
Garbed herself in sighs;
Ridiculed the birthmarks
Of the butterflies.
- "The Vestal"
- Finally she faltered;
Saw at last, forsooth,
Every gaudy color
Is a bit of truth.
Then the gates were opened;
Miracles were seen;
That instructed damsel
Donned a gown of green;
Wore it in a churchyard,
All arrayed with care;
And a painted rainbow
Shone above her there.
- "The Vestal"
- In the darkness, who would answer for the color of a rose,
Or the vestments of the May moth and the pilgrimage it goes?
- "The Blind Girl"
- A precious place is Paradise and none may know its worth,
But Eden ever longeth for the knicknacks of the earth.
The angels grow quite wistful over worldly things below;
They hear the hurdy-gurdies in the Candle Makers Row.
They listen for the laughter from the antics of the earth;
They lower pails from heaven's walls to catch the milk-maids mirth.
- The sun shall shine in ages yet to be,
The musing moon illumine pastures dim,
And afterwards a new nativity
For all who slept the dreamless interim.
- The starry brocade of the summer night
Is linked to us as part of our estate;
And every bee that wings its sidelong flight
Assurance of a sweeter, fairer fate.
- When you return, the youngest of the seers,
Released from fetters of ancestral pose,
There will be beauty waiting down the years —
Revisions of the ruby and the rose.
- The sign work of the Orient it runneth up and down;
The Talmud stalks from right to left, a rabbi in a gown;
The Roman rolls from left to right from Maytime unto May;
But the gods shake up their symbols in an absent-minded way.
Their language runs to circles like the language of the eyes,
Emphasised by strange dilations with little panting sighs.
- "The Symbols"
- The very serpents bite their tails; the bees forget to sting,
For a language so celestial setteth up a wondering.
And the touch of absent mindedness is more than any line,
Since direction counts for nothing when the gods set up a sign.
- "The Symbols"
- Cloud-made mountains towered,
Beckoning to me;
Talked about the sea...
Lava Lane and Other Poems (1925)
- Across the downs a hummingbird
Came dipping through the bowers,
He pivoted on emptiness
To scrutinize the flowers.
- "The First Reformer"
The Singing Crow And Other Poems (1926)
- You cannot choose your battlefield,
God does that for you;
But you can plant a standard
Where a standard never flew. QOTD 2007·11·01 Sound file
- "The Colors" (These lines have sometimes been misattributed to the author Stephen Crane).
Venus Invisible and Other Poems (1928)
- Said the tiger to the lily,
Said the viper to the rose,
Let us marry so our children
May attain the double pose.
With a feline half a flower —
With the attar in the asp
We could institute a slaughter
That would make a planet gasp.
- The world is growing gentle,
But few know what she owes
To the understanding lily
And the judgment of the rose.
- Treating the sword blade the same as the staff,
Turning the chariot wheel into chaff.
Toppling a pillar and nudging a wall,
Building a sand pile to counter each fall.
Yielding to nothing — not even the rose,
The dust has its reasons wherever goes.
- "The Dust"
- Oh, we have had great lovers that we followed to the pyre;
Our boasts out-do the Sabine girls—the Mosque of St. Sophia.
And we are very sure of ours, for when a city falls,
They seize us and they love us and they hurl us from the walls.
- "Our Lovers"
- He found the harem filled with rocking maids
Surrendered to the orgies of the sob.
- Great is the rose
Infected by the tomb,
Indifferent to death.
- The rose has told In one simplicity.
That never life
Relinquishes a bloom
But to bestow
An ancient confidence.
- Great is the rose
That challenges the crypt,
And quotes milleniums
Against the grave.
The Wings of Lead
- First published in 1927, when Crane was 14, this poem won first prize in a contest to commemorate Charles Lindbergh's crossing of the Atlantic.
- The gods released a vision on a world forespent and dull;
They sent it as a challenge by the sea hawk and the gull.
It roused the Norman eagerness, the Albion cliffs turned red:
"You fly the wings of logic — can you fly the wings of lead?
- A thousand ardent oilers swung the long spout 'twixt their nods,
And tried to glimpse a meaning in the challenge of the gods.
And then one night there landed on a Mineola swale
A plane that looked like pewter, with a carrier of mail.
Its wings were tinged like tea-box skins, each truss of shadow gray,
Its cabin but an alcove slung beneath a metal ray.
The Spirit of St. Louis was inscribed upon the lee;
It came from out a province that had never seen the sea.
- A single-motored miracle, a lead mine on each flank;
Below a shadow swept and awed the hundred-fathom bank.
- And the eyes of all look upward seeing sign-word drawing nigh,
The stony wings of Egypt coming back across the sky;
We hear the clinking tamborine of Miriam anew;
We believe in every miracle since Lindbergh flew the blue —
The wonder of the long draw when the bowstring is a thread —
The beauty of a courage that can raise the wings of lead.
Swear By the Night and Other Poems (1936)
- Let go the lure
The striving to unmake;
Behold the truth
Whenever heart may ache
There is a glory
In a great mistake.
Quotes about Crane
- A year ago, to a startled public, was revealed the most extraordinary prodigy of them all — Nathalia Crane, 11-year-old poet, "The Baby Browning of Brooklyn," whose first volume of verse, The Janitor's Boy, was heralded by critics to be a work of genius.
Such words as "blastoderm", "sindoc," "peris," "parasang," "sarcenet," "teazel," "nullah," "cantatrice," "barracan," "sistrum," writhed and hissed in her verses. One poem began with the nebular hypothesis and ended with prohibition; others cantered with a Eugene Fieldian humor; still others coldly glowed with the passion-weary detachment of a woman who has had her fill of life and its motley follies. Critic-Poet Louis Untermeyer chortled with elation. Poet William Rose Benét wrote a preface. The English Society of Authors and Playwrights (of which Thomas Hardy is President) asked Nathalia Crane to join them.
- It seems impossible to me that a girl so immature could have written these poems. They are beyond the powers of a girl of twelve. The sophisticated viewpoint of sex ... knowledge of history and archeology found in these pages place them beyond the reach of any juvenile mind.
- Edwin Markham, as quoted in TIME magazine (23 November 1925)
- Nathalia sort of sings her poems to herself — they come into being that way. She reads Kipling constantly, and Conan Doyle is her favorite. The only poet she likes is Longfellow, but she doesn't enthuse over him. She likes wild, imaginative tales.
When she finds a word she likes or doesn't understand, she looks it up in every available dictionary and studies every possible meaning and use for it...
- Crane's father, as quoted in TIME magazine (23 November 1925)
- Nathalia can explain practically every line she has ever written; I have heard her uncertain treble clarify passages that have puzzled erudite authors. No poet that ever lived delighted in amassing such curious, half-forgotten sounds; not even Francis Thompson had so great a vocabulary of rare and archaic terms. . . Nathalia collects words the way a boy of her age collects postage stamps; she had thumbed Noah Webster's work (in various editions) and made a glossary of her own. The dictionary is her playbox and she knows exactly where every odd toy is concealed.
- Louis Untermeyer as quoted in TIME magazine (23 November 1925)
- Some of the critics explained the work by insisting that the child was some sort of medium, an instrument unaware of what was played upon it; others, considering the book a hoax, scorned the fact that any child could have written verses so smooth in execution and so remarkable in spiritual overtones. ... The appeal of such lines is not that they have been written by a child but by a poet.
- I remember that Bob had bought several books during the trip, and they were in sight. One was a collection of verse by a talented child named Nathalia Crane, then making a sizable splash in the American literary world.
- Harold Preece commenting about Robert E. Howard's regard for Crane's poetry in The Last Celt: A Bio-Bibliography of Robert E. Howard (1976) by Glenn Lord p. 95