This is the illustration for poem 12, from Hart Crane’s The Bridge. The section is called “Three Songs”, and this is the third song, Virginia. Very briefly, the poem represents a depiction of a New York City woman, at work, and at play.
This is the illustration for poem 11, from Hart Crane’s The Bridge. The section is called “Three Songs”, and this is the second song, National Winter Garden. The poem is set in a famous burlesque night club (from that era), in New York City.
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.
This is the eighth poem in Hart Crane’s epic poem, The Bridge. It is a very dense poem, that echoes some other major works of literature, particularly Moby Dick, and The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner. Hart Crane called it something of a fugue because it interleaves a sailor’s story, with the poet’s dreams and observations.
The poem starts in a bar on South Street, with the sailor telling his somewhat rambling story, and ends with the poet crossing the BB, dreaming of phantom clipper ships from America’s glorious sailing past.
I chose to focus on the themes of Atlantis (a recurring theme), crossing the bridge, the search for love (the ancient myth of Leander and Hero), the search for America’s future.
Indiana is the seventh poem, the end of the second section, of The Bridge. It is a send off to a son, who decides to leave the farm, and head out west to become a sailor, to go to sea. The young man’s parents left Kentucky to seek gold in Colorado but came up empty and settled in Indiana. A tale of the American dream, the search for El Dorado, the jackpot. There are cross-currents to Native Americans, Columbus, the search for gold, the journey to the west (go west young man), etc.
There are so many different ways I thought of doing this illustration.
Perhaps I will do two illustrations for this section.
Pocahontas, sleeping, green grass, yellow corn, awakening, the dance by the chief, return.
These are the general themes.
This is not the place to go deeply into the biography and character of Hart Crane. But obviously the poet wanted us to consider him a link between the past and present, and in this section he inserted himself, metaphorically, into the stream of the bridge.
Hart Crane’s poem is ethno-centric, no doubt about that. It is not deliberately so, it just reflects his class background and where the educated classes of America were at that time. But there also is no doubt that Hart Crane identified his spirit with the broad, expansive, inclusive spirit of Walt Whitman, and not the much narrower social-political outlook of his class and ethnic background.
Did his sexual orientation have anything to do with this? To give some idea of what he faced … as recently as the 1960s, leading intellectuals viewed his sexual orientation as a “pervasion” rather than an integral part of his life. Hart Crane was an insider, and an outsider. He was part of the American elite, but he also was something of an outcast.
A difficult place to be in perhaps, for a life, but the perfect spot to write this epic poem, and dream his dream.
The stage has now been set. We have been introduced to the Brooklyn Bridge, and we have heard the moving, impassionate soliloquy of Columbus. Now the poet shifts the focus, to himself perhaps, waking up, at dawn, in New York City, with Pocahontas at his side.
This is the second poem in Hart Crane's epic, the first poem that actually starts the action, coming right after the opening "To Brooklyn Bridge".
It is written as a soliloquy by Columbus, as he sails back home to Spain. One of his ships is gone, so there are only two ships on the return voyage. The beauty of the sea, the New World, and religious fervor are some of the themes of this section.
The Bridge can be a dense, difficult poem, even for folks who are aware of its complexities. I have put together a very brief bibliography to help you get started.
The Bridge by Hart Crane
The Annotated Edition, Edited by Lawrence Kramer
Published by Fordham University, 2011.
This book is a must! Bound to become a true classic for The Bridge. When I first read this poem, while studying for my baccalaureate at Iona College, under Professor Porter, our Professor basically went through the poem, one line at a time. Unfortunately, I no longer have those notes. This book is as close as you can come. An absolute must.
Hart Crane An Introduction And Interpretation
by Samuel Hazo
Published by Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1963, paperback.
This paperback written in 1963, is both a good general introduction and a good reference on The Bridge. There are two long chapters on the poem, comprising almost half the book.
Modern Critical Views
edited and with introduction by Harold Bloom.
Published by Chelsea House Publishers, 1986.
This is from the Bloom series, a general collection on Hart Crane and his works, with at least two specific essays on The Bridge.
Please let me know if you have any other sources and I will keep this posting updated.
The great bridge, the epic poem, America at the beginning of the twentieth century, America in the 1920s, when Hart Crane wrote this poem, America today 100 years later. I am putting together 15 illustrations, all digital, to correspond to the 15 sections of Hart Crane’s colossal poem.
I am also setting up a menu tab, The Bridge, on my WordPress site as a place for notes, comments, essays, illustrations, etc., all pertaining to Hart Crane, and The Bridge. I hope you will join in!
Here is the first illustration, To Brooklyn Bridge, the opening poem.
Savor and enjoy your trip!
It can be a difficult and dense poem, but once you cross this bridge, you will not return the same. Who knows, you may not want to return at all.