This is the ninth, and largest poem in Hart Crane’s epic, The Bridge. The location, Cape Hatteras, has important meanings for flight, and shipping. The airplane and Walt Whitman figure prominently in this poem.
It is important to realize that Hart Crane does not praise technology for the sake of technology, but rather, for the manifestation it exhibits of the human spirit. Hence the crashes, the greed of Wall Street, the wars, all of the bad things technology can do, stand in stark contrast to the promise, the potential, of a humanity centered in the spirit. The recurring theme is that America has not yet lived up to its promise, but because of poets like Walt Whitman, and ultimately, Hart Crane, there is a chance to restore the original dream, the original intent. That is the role of the true poet, to keep the dream alive!
Hart Crane here is explicitly, in no uncertain terms, carrying on the Whitman tradition, the poet of the true new world order, not based on money and power, but on a new type of human being, centered in the spirit and the myth, the creator, and the brother, becoming the poem that is the promised true story of America. His poem stands in stark contrast to The Waste Land, by TS Eliot, published in the same decade (1922), a poem that received much attention and critical acclaim. Hart Crane wanted his poem to answer the nihilism and skepticism of The Waste Land, and he found his hero, and source in Walt Whitman.
The verse is very dense, even more so in many ways, than in other sections of the epic. It is not unusual for Crane to telescope past, present and future in one verse. It gives this poem its power, but can make it a challenging read. I have chosen to create something of a collage with the airplane as the center of my image. I could have filled the collage with dozens of words, but I chose to keep it simple.
Please feel free to leave comments on The Bridge! I look forward to them.