Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Bridge

Cape Hatteras

Breathe deep, mine eyes, the frosty saga of eternal suns
From unseen depths and dreams undreamt,
I sing the gleaming cantos of unvanquished space
By thought I embrace the universal
With wings of mind I sail the infinitude
Glory! 'tis the stars which beckon man's spirit and set our souls adrift!

        —from Hart Crane’s “Cape Hatteras,” published independently on this day in 1930, and was published the following month as the fifth part of Hart Crane’s long poem, “The Bridge”.  It is an interesting poem, that seems to be almost like a history poem.  The poem begins in the age of the dinosaur and moves on quickly to the eternal geological change of Earth.  It continues onto, once again, another reference to Pocahontas, the Indian princess.  But before that, Hart references Walt Whitman, “Or to read you, Walt,–knowing us in thrall.”
During the course of “Cape Hatteras”, Crane makes several references to Whitman.  That makes sense, since many critics and readers take “The Bridge” to be the contemporary version of “Songs of Myself”, representing Crane’s vision of his America.  “Cape Hattars” continues to on-again-off-again blank verse that was seen earlier, but is more consistent than “Cutty Sark”.  The language that Crane employs is very beautiful, and seems, almost Romantic at places.

"Hart Crane's poems are profound and deep-seeking. In them he reveals, with a new insight and unique power, the mystic undertones of beauty which move words to express vision."
- Eugene O'Neill

Cowslip and shad-blow, flaked like tethered foam 
Around bared teeth of stallions, bloomed that spring 
When first I read thy lines, rife as the loam 
Of prairies, yet like breakers cliffward leaping ! 
O, early following thee, I searched the hill 
Blue-writ and odor-firm with violets, 'til 
With June the mountain laurel broke through green 
And filled the forest with what clustrous sheen ! 
Potomac lilies, --- then the Pontiac rose, 
And Klondike edelweiss of occult snows ! 
White banks of moonlight came descending valleys --- 
How speechful on oak-vizored palisades, 
As vibrantly I follow down Sequoia alleys 
Heard thunder's eloquence through green arcades 
Set trumpets breathing in each clump and grass tuft --- 'til 
Gold autumn, captured, crowned the trembling hill.

From The Bridge, Cape Hatteras

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