Title: Hart Crane's poetics and The Bridge
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00097782/00001
 Material Information
Title: Hart Crane's poetics and The Bridge
Physical Description: iv, 232 leaves ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Sugg, Richard Peter, 1941-
Publication Date: 1969
Copyright Date: 1969
Subject: English thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- English -- UF
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis - University of Florida.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 229-232.
Additional Physical Form: Also available on World Wide Web
General Note: Manuscript copy.
General Note: Vita.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00097782
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000561543
oclc - 13545533
notis - ACY7477


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I would like to acknowledge the contributions of various

people to the production of this study. Mr. Robert Nadeau not

only proofread the final draft, but offered kindly criticisms

during the writing. Dr. John B. Pickard meticulously read

and re-read this study, providing numerous and important

suggestions. Dr. Claude Abraham served on the Supervisory

Committee. To Dr. William R. Robinson, who extended continual

and invaluable criticism and encouragement in his direction

of this study, my rmost.'he-irtfelt gratitude.



Acknowledgeents . .
The Bridge and the Critic
Poetic Theories and Purpo

Structure and Style in T
Proem . . . .
Ave Maria. . . . .
The Harbor Dan. . .
Van W nkle . . . .
The River . . .
The Dance. . . . .
Indian. . . . .
Cutty Sark . . . .
Cape Hatteras . .
Threc Songs . . .
Quaker Hill. . . .
The Turnnel . . . .
Atlantis . . . .
1otes. . . . . .
Selected Bibliography. .

. . . . . . . iii
s . . . . . . . 1
ses . . . . . . . 8
e Bridge. . . . . . 22
. . . . . . . 39
. . . . . . 53
. . . . . . 74
. . . . . . . 80
. . . . . . . 85
. . . . . . . . 101
. . . . . . . . 117
. . . . . . . 124
. . . . . . . . 133
. . . . . . . . 158
. . . . . . . . . 170
. . . . . . . . . 182
. . . . . . . 201
. . . . . . . . 215
. . . . . . 229




The immediate critical response to the publication of The

Bridge discouraged Crane. Although a few reviewers praised the

poem unstintingly, Allen Tate and Yvor Wibnters, men whom Crane

counted among his friends and peers, agreed that the poem failed

of its epical ambitions.1 Criticism centered around Crane's

use of "the private lyric to write the cultural epic,"'2 his

attempt "to put greater pressure of meaning upon a trivial symbol

than it would bear." Though individual passages of the poem

were praised, the early critics repeatedly objected to the absence

of that unity and coherence which they had been taught to expect

from the traditional epic. Tate cogently stated the case against

Crane's poem: "His pantheism is necessarily a philosophy of

sensation without point of view. An epic is a judgement of

human action, an implied evaluation of a civilization, a way of

life." Similar arguments evoked from Crane a response that drew

the battle lines for the criticism of the following twenty-five


Taggard, like Winters, isn't looking for
poetry anymore. Like Munson, they are both
in pursuit of some cure-all. Poetry as
poetry (and I don't mean merely decorative
verse) isn't worth a second reading any more.
Therefo re--away with Kubla Kahn, out with
lMarlowe, and to hell with Keats: It's a
pity, I think. So many true things have a
way of coming out all the better without the
strain to sum up the universe in one impressive
little pellet. I acnit that I don't answer



the requirements. My vision of poetryS
is too personal to "answer the call."

When Tate's objection and Crane's response are examined,

the central point of the disagreement is clear. Tate wanted,

as did so many other critics of his day, a poem that would tell

a story of such scope and forcefulness as to serve as a rallying

point for the entire culture. But Crane knew that "poetry

as poetry" was neither doctrinaire nor dogmatic, and could not

be accurately appreciated on those bases. Perhaps Crane was

at fault in the argument, since he had compared The Bridge to

The Aeneid. Still, the early critics took up this epic claim and

used it against both the poet and the poem without admitting the

possibility of a principle of order other than the traditional

epic "point of view." Declaring in 1935 that The Waste Lend, The

Cantos and The Bridge were the most ambitious poems of his time,

R. P. Blackmur pronounced all three failures "in composition,

in independent objective existence, and in intelligibility of

language."6 The desideratum of "independent objective existence'

recalls Tate's criticism of a "philosophy of sensation without

point of view," and suggests a common criterion for the attack on

the unity and coherence of Crane's poem.

The nature of the unity and coherence which both critics

sought is suggested in Blackmur's disagreement with Crane's comment

that poetry is an architectural art. Blackmur retorted that poetry

"is a linear art, an art of succession,"7 thereby implying his

own predilection for the linear and sequential development most

common to poetry of statement and dramatic movement according to

Aristotelian :plot." Compare Blackliur's comment with a r-ore recent


statement on the non-linear mode of presentation in the poetry of

Crane's contemporaries:

The reader who approaches Pound, Eliot,
and Joyce alike as exploiters of the
cinematic aspects of language will arrive
at appreciation more quickly than the one
who unconsciously tries to make sense of
them by reducing their use of the new
media of communication to the abstract
linear forms of the book page.8

This mental tendency to prefer meaning to value, abstractions to

concrete phenomena and images, this mental predilection which

VJhitehead called "the fallacy of the misplaced concrete,'" clearly

interfered with earlier critical judgments of The Bridge. Tate

and Blackmur might have learned from Crane's praise of Vhitman

to forget about point of view and consider the values of a living

poetry dedicated to rendering the "incarnate evidence"9 rather

than the abstract meaning of the imagination's encounter with

the world:

0, something green,
Beyond all sesames of science was thy choice
Wherewith to bind us throbbing with one vo8e.
( Cape Hatteras")

But the early attacks on the unity and coherence of The Bridge

seem to have overlooked the possibility of a principle of order

other than "point of view," and thus could only praise Crane's

poetry for "the distraught but exciting splendour of a great

failure." ,'

Several later attempts to discover a principle of unity in

the poem have sought to establish parallels between The Bridge

and archetypal patterns. Robert J. Andreach declares that "the

poem is a narrative of the fivefold division of the spiritual

life"1 according to the traditional stages of the rmstic's

progression toward salvation. He divides the poem according

to these five steps: awakening, purgative, illuminative, dark

night of the soul, and, finally, the unitive. Jerome T.

Kloucek, on the other hand, believes that the poem follows

the traditional three-stage pattern of the quest, as outlined

in Joseph Campbell's The Hero !i.th A Thousand Faces. He divides

the poem accordingly, concluding with the third stage in "Atlantis,"'

the unitive stage where the "hero faces the task of expressing
his vision in terms of human understanding."1 Both critics

atteript to substitute a study of values for a study of plot, but

the values they perceive are too dependent on a system (the nys-ti

experience, the hero's quest) extcrnal. both to Cran:'s avow-ed

intentions and to The Bridge itself. They both utilie_.: a "point

of vie which of necessity must remain outside the pocrn itself.

But their concern for process and structure is si.,"e'.tive of the

approach more thoroughly applied in the two book-length studies

of Crane's poetry.

The most exbcnsive, and in many respects thl best,, i criticism

of The Bri.dge has been given by L. S. Dembo and R. !. B. Leowis. .

Dembo believes that the argument of the poem is the tragic one

of llictu;sche: the tragic ari.st in himself must unite the

Apollonian and Dionys.in in order to see "his oneness with the

primal source of the universe."' Thus the movc:ncnt of the poe::

is "beyon-d tragedy to a kIowledge of divinity. The various

sections and division; of the poeG,, accorlding to D.c'lbo, i-ce not;



mere lyrical impulses disconnected from the whole, but rather are

united with the central tragic argument in presenting one or more

aspects of that larger movement where "resurrection always follows

suffering and death."17 Thus Dembo finds a unity in the poem on

the basis of the poem's subject being a process rather than an

abstract theme, such as "the greatness of America,"18 or an

external schema, such as the hero's quest. Dembo does not see

the process as a simple linear movement from death to resurrection,

but as a series of repeated movements according to the same process,

culminating in the final resurrection of "Atlantis." Most impor-

tant of all is Dembo's recognition of the act of creation going

on in The Bridge. "It seems to me that, whatever his declared

intentions, Crane's real purpose in writing The Bridge was to

create an environment in which the poet was able to transcend

the impotent-clown image that was his only face in a nontragic,

nonheroic world. .19 (italics mine). This notion of the poem as

an act of' creation, subordinate in Dembo's argument to the tragic

nature of the process, seems to me really central in the.poem.

It speaks to the arguments that The Bridge is disjointed, unin-

telligible and disunified by suggesting an intrinsic process20

as the principle of order in the poem.

SR. W. B. Lewis ignores Dembo's concern with the Nietzschean

aspects of the poem to develop the notion of The Bridge as process.

He declares that the central symbol, the bridge, is a "myth. .
in the sense of revelation," and that "the story, such as it

is, consists in the poet's journeying effort to arrive at such a

revelation, and by means of it to see all of contemporary America,


and its intractable forces, as the bridge had been seen in

'Proem'."2 He further notes that the movement of the poem is

one of vision seen, lost momentarily, and finally recovered, and

that a process of permeation of the external world by the poet's

vision is occurring throughout the poem. There is not, accord-

ing to Lewis, a beginning, middle and end in the Aristotelian

sense, but rather an "epic rhyLhm,"23 "an ebb and flow of conscious-

ness and perception and emotion: a recurring rhythmic movement.' 2

The middle is not a point on the line of sequential development

but instead a series of moments "at which the action takes a

series of new but analogous dcirections,"25 and the end not the b

logical conclusion of some argument but a v'supremc apocalypse of
26 /
imagination, the revelation of a universal radiance and harmony -2

wrought by the poet's own transfiguring imagination. This
apocalypse, however, is "never final, nor can it ever be sustainad."27

Le is argues that the purpose of the poem is to rediscover vision

in contemporary imerica. The process is one of rediscovering

this vision in various temporal and spatial locales, always in

terns of the poet's owm consciousness, with the bridge as symbol

of this revelation and of the process of revelation it.slf. The

subject of the poem is not' the greatness of America but "'hope,

and its content a journey toward hope: a hope reconstituted on

the ground of the imagination in action."2 Thus "the plot of

The Bridge is the gradual per.mneation of an entire culture by the

power of poetic v.ision."29 Lewis argues that the "succession o

poetic twi..sts and srals and diversions"' are all unified in

their shored alleg..'ance. to the myth of the bridge in the poet's

own consciousness. He, with Dembo, recognizes that a process of

creation is taking place. He perceives the movement toward the

unitive stage of "Atlantis." Finally, he provides an effective

and forceful answer to the earlier criticisms of Tate and Winters,

comparing the formal procession of the poem to that of music, to

architecture, to "the cinematic aspects" of its language.

Neither Dembo nor Lewis, however, really develops any

notion of the creative process or values of the imagination in

The Bridge. Yet any accurate account of-the poem as a "history"

of the imagination at work, or what Crane called "an epic of

the modern consciousness,"31 must consider exactly what Crane

conceived to be the nature and values of the imagination and its

role in the poetic process. Is it only a matter of death pre-

ceding resurrection in the Nietzschean cycle, as Dembo would

have it? Or does Lewis fully account for the growth of the

imagination by noting the recurrent pattern of vision seen, lost,

and regained? An examination of the writings of Crane himself,

his letters and several extant essays, will help to determine

what his poetic purposes were, and how the nature and values of

the imagination as he conceived of it contributed to the working

out of these purposes in The Bridge, the "incarnate evidence" of

the imagination's experience of.the world.


I attach no intrinsic values
to what means I use beyond their
practical service in giving for- 1
to the living stuff of the imagination.

Crane's avowed poetic purposes, and the structural and

stylistic devices used to irmplc:aemet those purposes, find their

most elaborate embodiment in The Bridge. Indeed, Cranc's "con-

tinuous and eloquent sp=n" is best assessed within the conte't

of his orn poetic intentions, for its very structure depends

upon the movement of a fictional poet toward the creation of a

poem, and that movement proceeds along lines ,ost e:plic tly

stated in Cranea's theory of organic poetry, a poetry of. life.

Crane's scornful warning to the critic Gorhnam Kanson not to seek

"exact factual data (Pa graphic map of eternity?); ethical orvli-t-

or oral classifications, etc.," in his poetry is still per-


you arbitrarily propose a goal for nie
which I have no idea of nor interest
in foll.o:ing. Either you find iy -iorki
poetic or not, but if you propose for
it such ends as poetry org:ai-calvl ecs-
capes, it seems to 1e, as Allen Wl^"!
sa.d, that you as a c:rit'ic of .it.era..ltu
are working into a conLasi.o:- of categories. (italics nine)

This warning against a crit.ici.t si bas on cabtegor;ies -:.iOoich Cr' e's

'"poetry orgranically escapes" is e'ci.1y lrappli cce to critics

of The riog, for tUe poon- has :as its cotrl ac io th reiteration

o0f the unitive acl- of the orf-n".o: jjinginption. It is not s.b.fly

t"at T Bri i--t a .oo.. con;'t"c;'7.d alor linc -" ici' i


Crane's theory of organic poetry, and hence to some extent

necessarily dependent upon the process explained in his poetic

theory. Rather, The Bridge is a poem "about" the creation of an (

organic construct that can embody the truth of the fictional

poet's imagination, the creation of a Bridge that is "one arc

synoptic" of the organic process within the poem which produced

it. The poem, then, not only results from a process of organic

creation, it also continually celebrates and re-enacts that

process as its proper subject. Thus to propose a goal for, or

- a critical appreciation of, The Bridge which is based on categories

or intentions not inherent in Crane's poetic purposes is to run

the risk of a critical "confusion of categories." Neither Crane

nor The Bridge intend any more (nor any less) than is implicit

in "giving form to the living stuff of the imagination."'

To some it may appear that Cranes repudiation of intellec-

tual, reflective knowledge as a valid goal of poetry too severely

limits the value of poetry. Crane's response to this objection

is an appeal to a higher truth, that of the imagination, which,

when embodied in poetry, renders the "actual (physical) repre-

sentation of the incarnate evidence of the very knowledge, the

very wisdaomr that is the "genetic basis" of all reflective

thought. Thus poetic knowledge, in Crane's opinion, is prior

in both time and importance to intellectual, reflective knowledge

as all existential, "incarnate" experience must be prior to

reflections on and abstractions from that experience. The

"actual (physical) representation of the incarnate evidence" of

the poem, then, must be the critic's first concern, if he is to


assent to the truth of the dictum that "a poem should not mean,

but ble' which underlies Crane's insistence on the supremacy of

the poetic fiction. The intentions of The Bridge, of course, must

be dictated by the poem itself; and no amount of fortuitous paral-

lels between Crane's poetic theory and the poem itself justifies

the assumption that the poem can be reduced to an embodiment of

a theory best understood in the abstract. However, it is my

contention that The Bridge renders the process by which the

Bridge, the act of imagination, is achieved, and that this

process is in fact based on Crane's poetic theories and purposes.

Therefore, an understanding of the poetic theory illuminates

both purpose and process in the poem, and is not simply another

"confusion of categories."

The poetic theories and purposes explicit in Crane's prose

writings, and implicit in his poetry, are not sui generic. In-

deed, they serve to place him in a tradition of English and

Ameirican writers, from Wordsworth through Ererson aud Whitman.

And they firmly link him with his contemporaries Wallace Stevens

and William Carlos Williams. Other critics have traced a rather

distinguished lineage for Crane's poetry to place his work in

historical perspective, and there is no need here to repeat the

process. That The hBridge has important affinities with a tradition

of Romantic poetry, with the "gcnre" of the Rorasintic "personal

epic," as well as with the French Symbolists, is certain. My

concern, however, is not with the historical categories most

applicn'ble to The Bridg, hut with the mre ir-ci i, '' ;'r-a

of Crane's poetryy as poetry." The con' et of Crie'. o satc -

ments about poetry and the poetic process, derived from his

first-hand experience in writing, is at least as relevant and

certainly more iimnediate in tone than the historical or exclu-

sively theoretical. It is in an attempt to convey Crane's atti-

tude toward the living values of his poetry, as well as to eluci-

date a poetic process that has direct relevance to his most

ambitious creation, that this discussion of his poetics proceeds.

There are three major aspects of Crane's poetic theory

which bear on the nature and direction of the poetry he wrote:

the process by which a poem is created, the kind of poem resulting V

from this process, and the function of the poem in relation to the

reader. The creative process is, according to Crane, an organic

one in which the poet submits to external sensations, assimilates

and reorganizes them, then represents to the world the "incarnate

evidence" of this experience embodied in a poem. The process is

organic rather than mechanical because it involves a real grafting

of poet and experience rather than a mere shifting of categories

in the reflective mind. It is a vitalizing process involving

the resurrection of inanimate elements within the "living stuff"

of the imagination. And it results in an artifact which has a

life paradoxically separate from but integral with that of the

artist. Finally, the goal of the process is both moral and

aesthetic, the evocation of what Crcne called the only absolutee1 9

to which he subscribed, the aesthetic experience of a condition

of "'innocence' (Bi3ake) or absolute beauty"10 by the "truth of

the imngination'11i embodied in the arLifact.

Poetry, Crane wrote, is "both perception and thing perceiveId,'l


and the process of poetic creation is one of integration and

assimilation, an organic union of experience ,and the living i~a-

gination. This creative process depends on the poet's active

receptivity to experience, his "negative capability," 3

rather than his abstracting intellect. Speaking of the influence

of the imchine and science on modern poetry, Crane reflected

on his o;mw experience:

I think that what is interesting and
significant wiill emerge only under the
conditions of our submiTssion to, and
examination and assimilation of the
organic effects on us of these and-other
fundamental factors of our experience.
It can certainly not b an organic
expression otherwise.-

That the "organic effects': of experience on the poetic sensi-

bility are more important than the in-tcbe actual estimation 0of

the trath or flasity of that experience is evident in Cronc's

insistence on the poet's sensibi.ity as the arbiter of "tra thl':

The poet has a right to draw on what-
ever practical resources he finds in
books or other-risc aeout-hiii. He must
taex his sensibility and his -touchstono
of ex:orience for the proper selections
of these themes and detT..il.., ho.;over,-...
and that is here e o either stands, or
falls_ into useless archaeology.1

The poet, then, does not ignore or neglect the past, but revivi-

fies it through incorporation into his : .,- '!-lion's lift. The

modern poet:

needs to ransac!k the vocac'bulai- s of
Shckesp.earo, Jonson, ,obstCr (for their,-.
vero the riches) c;d add our scicnti?:ic,
street and counter, and hologic;.
tc. ., etco. ] c i

,gi[';'. ;i a.G; ,;i i i c .':cit:cs, f ', ': -:: --::

QA)Cd C:^.".n ~:rac.a -' nrb i. ci or\'"r;u ; u."c onl' m t}) i.-: ]l t --c;. -'"';


employed crutch" of poetic allusion to tradition or myth.

l')hen such allusion was not organically justified with the

"living stuff" of the poem it "obscured rather than illumined:18

whatever approximation or relevance the tradition alluded to

might have with the twentieth century.

Writing on the work of another artist, the photographer

Steiglitz, Crane elaborated on the aspect of submission to ex-

perience, and associated the action with a mimetic process.

It is the passivity of the camera
coupled with the unbounded respect
of this photographer for its mecha-
nical perfectibility which permits
nature and all life to mirror itself
so intimately and so unexpectedly.

The "passivity of the camera" corresponds to the necessary sub-

mission; and the image of life mirroring itself is best illumi-

nated by a remark to Steiglitz himself:

I feel more and more that in the
absolute sense the artist identifies
himself with life. . in the true
mystical sense as well as in the
same sense which Aristotle meant
by the "imitation of nature."

The true idea of God is the only
thing that can give happiness,--
and that is the identification of
yourself with all of life.20

This interesting view of Aristotle's famous dictum, that the artist

rather than the artifact should mirror life, emphasizes Crane's

belief that his poetry issues from the union of artist and ex-

perience. It also suggests that an intellectual judgment of

poetry on the same bases as one usually judges the world must be

fallacious, since poetry (Crano!,, at least) is not meant as a

copyboo' imitattion of external reality but as a creation based


on laws of its own origination.21 This, of course, is the basis

for Crane's earlier warning against the use of "ethical morality

or moral classifications" as criteria for criticism of his poetry.

Crane's description of the actual process that gives birth

to the imagination's "living stuff" reveals the secondary role

that the intellect plays:

The actual fleshing of a concept is so
complex and difficult, however, as to be
quite beyond the immediate avail of will
or intellect. A fusion with other factors
not so easily named is the condition of
fulfillment. It is all right to call this
"possession," if you will, only it should
not be insisted that its operation denies
the simultaneous function of a strong
critical faculty. It is simply a stronger
focus than can be arbitrarily willed into 22
operation by the ordinarily-employed perceptions.

The organic metaphor for the creative process, "the fleshing of

a concept," suggests the origin of the poem that will carry what

Crane called "the very blood and bone of me."23 Even words, the

most extra-referential aspect of poetry, are first controlled by

this organic process, rather than by intellect.

One must be drenched in words, literally
soaked with them to have the right ones
form themselves into the proper pattern
at the right moment. When they come.. .
they come as things in themselves; it is [
a matter of felicitous juggling'; and no
amount of will or emotion can help the
thing a bit. So you see I believe with
Sommer that the "Ding an Sich" method
is ultimately the only satisfy atory
creative principle to follow.2

The organic unity composed of the words of the poem evinces what

Crane called "an interior form,"2 a phrase that suggests that

the first allegiance of the words'is to each other rather..

than to external reality. Crnne underscored hi,- belief in an

exfoliating process of creation'by deploring the "tiresome

repetitions of sound or rhyme" and the "mechanical insistence of
certain formal patterns" that Uimpose themselves from without,

or seem to, in so many bad poems. An interior form built on the

"superior logic of metaphor" is the goal of the organic process,

and not that "system of judgment" based on "perfect sums, divisions

and subtractions"27 which the intellect imposes on reality. Crane

noted the inadequacy of such logical systems in the creation of

the imagination's art, and declared flatly that "the great energies

about us cannot be transformed that way into a higher quality of


Crane's belief in the 'higher quality of life embodied in

the "living stuff of the imaginationn: committed him to the living

present as well as to the rendering of values rather than logical

"truth." The present, for Crane, is not the chronological present,

but what in The Bridge is termed the "Evcrpresence" of the imragi-

nation's truth; that is, the present-ness of the aesthetic truth

embodied in poetry, no matter when it was written. Though Crane

realized that in terms of "ethical morality or moral classifi-

cations" the 1920's may have seemed a waste land, he believed

that such judgments were irrelevant to a poetry concerned with

rendering the values of the imagination's "Everpresence, beyond

time.", ("Atlantis") Accordingly, he bridled at the tendency,

best typified in T. S. Eliot, to repudiate the present in favor

of tradition.

We suffer all-too-much from social mal-
nutrition once we try to live entirely
with the ghostly past. We must som;ihou
touch the clearest veins of eternity


flowing through the crowds around
us--or risk being the kind of
glorious cripples that have missed
some vital part of their inheritance.

Similarly, he repudiated the attempts to subsume the present as

a stage, unpleasant but necessary, in the progress toward some

glorious future, a characteristic peculiar to the propaganda

literature of the Narxists, among others.

I think that this unmitigated concern
with the Future is one of the most
discouraging symptoms of the chaos of
our age, however worthy the ethical
concerns may be. It seems as though
the imagination had ceased all attempts
at any creative activity--and had be-
come simply a great bulging eye ogling the
foetus of the next century. . I find
nothing in Blake that seems outdated, 30
and for him the present was always eternity.

"Ethical concerns" do not beget the "living stuff of the imagination,"

which renders what is and not what ought to be. In his quest for
a "timeless vision" built on "the moment made eternal" the

poet's task is the articulation of "the contemporary human

consciousness sub specie aeternitatis."32 He performs this task

by rendering "'some absolute and timeless concept of the imagination'33

in a poem, and not by appealing to ethical or intellectual classi-

fications. The imagination's art appeals to the aesthetic sense,

and hence the poet can only be an 1unackcnowledged legislator of

mankind,3 at least until such time as the general world enters

into some cormmonwealth of the imagination. Bat Crane believed

that the bruth of the :i nation" embodi.ed in the poem wa:s :funda-

mental to, if unackno:e!od red by, the truth" of logic.

The cnire cn.:;rTic;.ion of the Uocrn is
rairrd o)n the orgo-,ic *rinciJ.le of a.
"lo:ic of inotaph' r,"I ich 'ntcald.tves
our ;.o--ca.lld pur o :lo.0, cand w hic: is
the [ontic b.ias of' 1] spccc, her
consscioun. ". thn L' --,:tc sion.-


Crane's comments on Plato suggest some of the values of the

imagination, and their primacy over the "so-called pure logic"

which is associated with rational truth. Writing to lMunson the

critic, Crane declares:

What you admire in Plato as "divine
sanity" is the architecture of his logic.
Plato doesn't live today because of the
intrinsic "truth" of his statements:
their only living truth today consists in
the fact of their harmonious relationship
to each other in the context of his or-
ganization of them. This grace partakes
of poetry. .. No wonder Plato considered
the banishment of poets;--their reorgani-
zation of chaos on basis perhaps divergent
from his own threatened the logic of his
system, itself founded on assumptions that
demanded the very defense of poetic con-
struction which he was fortunately able
to provide.37

Here the '"harmonious relationship" of Plato's statements, "in

the context of his organization of them" displays a "grace"

that "partakes of poetry." The values of the imagination are

these: harmony, grace, organization, life, all evident in its

creation from "chaos" of "the architecture" of its own logic.

The organic and artful join again to produce what Crane calls

the "living truth." The "reorganization of chaos" into a "system,"

is the goal and function of the imagination, and results in "the

moment made eternal" in the continuing life of a poem. Plato's

system is an organic construct because it evinces this "living

truth" long after he has died, and is valuable insofar as it

embodies that "truth of the imagination."

The nature of the poem which results from the act of the

imagination is suggested in several comments Crane made on the

photography of Steiglitz. lIe noted that "we are thrown into


ultimate harmonics by looking at. these stationary, yet strangely

moving pictures.'" The union of art and growth, construction and

organic vitality, is here suggested by the combination of stasis

and vibrance which Steiglitz's work reveals. Crane proceeded to

illuminate his conception of the "organic construction":

If the essences of things were in their
mass and bulk we should not need the clair-
voyance of Steiglitz's photography to arrest
them for examination and appreciation. But
they are suspended on the invisible dimension
whose vibrance has been denied the human eye
at all times save in the intuition of ecstasy.
. Speed is at the bottom of it all--the
hundredth of a second caught so precisely
that the motion is continued from the picture
infinitely: the moment made eternal.
This baffling capture is an end in itself.
It even seems to get at the motion and emotion
of so-called inanimate life.39

Here vibrancee," "motion," "the moment made eternal," "the motion

and emotion of so-called inanimate life' are the qualities praised

in Steiglitz's work, and by extension in Crane's o-wn poetry. The

imitation of nature, the mimetic recording of three-dimensional

phenomena, is not the goal of the imagination. The result of the

organic process of creation is a living, vibrant, organic con-

struction showing, like Crane's F l'ie.-, "Vibrant reprieve and

pardon," ('Proem"), resulting in "whispers antiphonal" thrt

"sw-ing" ("Atlantis"') in a motion "continued from the picture

indefinitely." The artifact, then, is "simply the concrete evi-

dcnce of a recognition. It can give you a ratio of fact and

experience, and in this sense it is both perception and thing

perceived, according ac it naproac3!es a significant articulation

or not.",

ri.ti'ng in "General Ains anid Thcoriest Crane described the

vn-'tv 7-: -r ;b -)c ,c ons,T r.cioCn o' the po: it rela-tc. to

the reader, and hinted at the poem's relation to the organic

process that engendered it.

It is my hope to go through the combined
materials of the poem, using our "real"
world somewhat as a spring-board, and
to give the poem as a whole an orbit or
predetermined direction of its owm. .
Its evocation will not be toward decoration
or amusement, but rather toward a state
of consciousness, an "innocence" (Blake)
or absolute beauty. In this condition
there may be discoverable under new
forms certain spiritual illuminations,
shining with a morality essentialized
from experience directly, and not from
previous precepts or preconceptions.
It is as though the poem gave the
reader as he left it a single, new
word, never before spoken and impossi-
ble to enunciate, but self-evident as
an active principle in the reader's
consciousness henceforward.41

This image of the poem as a world with an "orbit" of its

own suggests its independence from its creator, its self-suffi-

ciency, as well as its constructed yet organic nature. More

relevant to the poem's function for the reader are Crane's remarks

on its evocation "toward a state of consciousness," a "condition"

in which "certain spiritual illuminations" may appear "essen-

tialized from experience directly." This state of consciousness

is the aesthetic absolute of the imagination's truth to which the

reader must assent. In this way the values that comprise the

"truth" of the poem become "self-evident as an active principle

in the reader's consciousness." The imagination communicates

itself to the reader own imagination, his pre-verbal, pre-reflcctive

vitality, which is for him as for the poet the '"genetic basis" of

speech and thought. The "spiritual illuminations" and their

"morality" have no reference to a Christian, theistic schema;




they refer to the aesthetic absolute of the truth of the imagination.

It is the imagination's shaping, illuminating and punitive power,

its moral and aesthetic "truth," which the poet hopes to embody

in the poem and engender in the reader. In this way Crane unites

the moral and aesthetic in an existential manner, ascribing to the

experience of aesthetic "truth," which is "absolute beauty," a

basis for moral action.h2 Just as the poet continually experiences

new recognition and fuses them with and recasts them into the

living stuff of the imagination, so the reader will hopefully

accept the poem as a new experience to be assimilated, integrated,

into his own living imagination. The art for which Crane strives,

then, is truly organic and living, born of a vital process and

intended to engender further life. Its co:--:tmcint' is to the,

rendering of the imagination's truth, and through that to the

continuance of the imagination's life, for as Crane noted, "new

conditions of life breed new forms of spiritual articulation."3

Its goal is not a cessation of speech, but an evocation of

further speech, the "single new word"' that breeds new spiritual.

articulations. Writing of Steiglitx, Crane described the process

and its goal. by quoting Blake:

I give you the end of a golden string:
Only wind it into a ball,--
It will lead you in at Heaven's gate,
Built in Jerusalem's wall. 4

The act of irnm;ainatJon, then, the org;anic conn.ruction of

the poem, is a bridge to a new state of con-ciou.t:cess, a punitive

state to which tlhe reader silently assents. The organic process

which resultt:; in this a-.ct of the creative i~',nc-in. t 1ior i: one of

assi:rilantion and regeneration. The a1 cal o0.' th- pom i;. to the


readcr's omw imagination, and its goal is the liberation of the

reader from "previous precepts and preconceptions" into the rrthic45

realm of the creative imagination, where he can perceive "spiritual

illuminations, shining with a morality essentialized from exper-

ience directly," and begin to move toward his omw "spiritual

articulations." Thus the poem is not only a "chord" upon which

to play the "major themes of human speculation--love, beauty

death, renascence," 46 but also a celebration of the power of the

imagination, the "harp" that engenders the "chord," and hence a

celebration of the life and act of the imagination. It is within

this context that The Bridge, Crane's "epic of the modern
consciousness, must be descbed.
consciousness,"5. must be described.


It all comes to the recognition that
emotional dynamics arc not to be confused
with any absolute order of rationalized
definitions; ergo, in poetry the rationale
of metaphor belongs to another order of
experience than science, and is not to be
limited by a scientific and arbitrary code
of relationships either in verbal inflections
or conceDts.1

The Bridge is a record, a "history" ("Atlantis"), which

simultaneously renders and defines the process by which the poet

becomes empo-wered to act, to embody his troith in an artifact, the

poem itself. It is a dramatic narrative of the life of the

imagination struggling to give form, and thereby meaning, to

its experience of the world. Accordingly, the stru-cture and

style of the poem derive front and bear witness to the poet's

commitment to the values of the living imagination. Crane's

comments on the problem of writing a history of the discovery

and exploration of the '"boody" of the continent (the subject

matter of the first half of The Br:idge) reveal this co ~n 4icnt..

It seemed altogether ineffective from
the poetic strn '-oint to approach this
materi al from the purely chronologic].l
angle--beginning with, say, the lrn-ding
of 'The liay o'.oe.r,"' contirU.ing .with a
resume of the Revolution through the
conquest of the 1iest, etc. One can
get that vieo oin in any history
primer. That I cT aftcr is n asn s-;.
Intion of this ccr.oriece, a .ora
,orL. pr, o'. i,, s.!c :in: the CLn k.. "
uou." nid living cv' 'ence of th n(e
in the :i vost vitl. sujrt?:;iice of tl e
present.2 (:i.tlics io)


This rendering of past experience "'in terms of the present"3 is

but one aspect of the poet's movement through various stages of

history and states of consciousness toward a formal integration

of his "modern consciousness" in the perception-creation of the

Bridge, the "one arc synoptic" of the process. That Crane

believed the various sections of The Bridge to be unified within

themselves and with each other is certain:

For each section of the poem has pre-
sented its own unique problem of form,
not alone in relation to the materials
embodied within its separate confines,
but also in relation to the other parts,
in series, of the major design of the
entire poem. Each is a separate canvas,
as it were, yet none yields its entire
significance when seen apart from the
others. One might take the Sistine
Chapel as an analogy.

The structural principle of the poem, then, is bifurcated. Each

section renders the achievement of the imagination's unitive

truth, or the failure to achieve it. And the sections in series

render the poet's movement through states of consciousness (note

Crane's reference to the "body:" of the continent in the previous

passage) toward his own punitive act, the perception-creation of

the Bridge. It is this latter act which liberates the poet into

the mythic realm of the creative imagination, symbolized by Atlantis,

in which state he is empowered to cast a 'my-thic spear:" of his own,,

i. e. to write The Bridge. The poem, in turn, becomes itself a

Bridge for the reader, for the poet's people, whereby they too

may cross over to that state of consciousness ynnbolized by


The process by which the poet comes to "know' and finally


embody the experience of his knowledge is similar to the process

which, in Crane's poetic theory, a poet comes to 0knou":'1 anything

which he wishes to incorporate in a poem. This organic process

is one of recognition, assimilation and regeneration, and in

The Bridge is accomplished by having the fictional poet encounter,

respond to, and assimilate, then move beyond the experience

embodied in each section of the poem. The process is one of

self-knowledge, and not knowledge of a culture; hence it is a

misteae to compare the glorious Indian civilization .with the

fallen modern opoch, as R. W1 B. Lewis continually does. The

poet's growth toward his uniti.ve act is the subject of the

poem, not "the gradual permeation of en entire culture by the

power of poetic vision." 'The different locales and times of

the poem, though they do vaguely span the history and breadth of

nmerica, have their main value in terms of the poet's developing

consciousness, his movement toward the recognition of the "in-

trinsic ]-.-ythb ("Atl-antis' ) of the punitive imagination. As Crane

noted, the relationship of the poet to temporal or spatial locale

is incidental to the creative act that is his desideratum:

I put no particular value on the simple
objective of "modernity." The clement
of the temporal location of an artist' s
creation is of' very seconda-ry :importance;
it cmn be left to the inmressionist or
historian just as :we].. It sees to me
that .a poet will accidentally define .cis
time viell enough simply '1 reacting honetly,
and to the full c::en', of his sensibilitics
to the states of nassion, eOTo'riencl and
ri1.t.J.io.n: tbha :'fat, e forces on iL, first
htnd. ilo mus t,o of court :e, have a srfficicetly
uni.v esal basis of cxr: Cicnce to 2 ke his
ima:in:r: .ion selective rad valua le. 5-Ii,">
In c'i' .. of the "'period," then, 'rii] si -ly
be a by-product of his c-u.iosity and the

relation of his experience to a
postulated "'etrnity."7 (italics mine)

That the poet's growth must be the fundamental act of the poem is

evident from the fact that the Bridge, which after "Proom" does

not appear symbolically until the last section, must indeed be,

as Tate called it, "a trivial symbol" inadequate to what it must

support, unless it is seen as the natural culmination of the

series of bridging, unitive acts'which have occurred in previous

sections of the poem. After all, it is not the Brooklyn Bridge

but the symbolic Bridge, the act of the creative imagination,

that capsulizes and cronms the poet's growth.

The poet's movement in The'Bridge toward Atlantis, his

"postulated 'eternity'," parallels the growth of his conscious-

ness toward the recognition of the imagination's unitive power.

"Proem" is at once prior and posterior to the rest of the poem,

for there the poet prays to a Bridge symbolic of a truth and

power he has experienced before ("And we have seen night lifted

in thy arms"), and asks that he may experience it again ("Unto

us low.liest sometime -sweep, descend,/And of the curveship lend

a Vyth to God.") "Proem," then, is a reflection on an act completed

for the purpose of beginning the act again, re-enactihg it. Hence

it is both begininng and end of the circular process rendered in

The Bridge; or, rather, the end of the process and the beginning

of the record of that process.

The subject matter of the first half of The Bridge ("Ave

Mariaa' through "Cutty Sark") is the discovery end exploration of

the body of the continent. But the subject is the growth of the

poet in the wisdom of the flesh, its powers and limitations viz a viz


the imagination. In "Ave -Iaria" the fictional poet is absent,

as the birth of the first consciousness of America as America

(Columbus's discovery and struggle to bring back the r"word'- of

the discovery) is rendered. This birth of consciousness is followed

by the poet's emergence from sleep into modern Manhattan, from

which he journeys retrospectively through "copybook" memory

and blood memory into his o'm and the nation's pst. "Pow:hatan's

Daughter" renders the poet's pursuit of Pocahontas and liberating

love through the bod,. He achieves physical-integration and

realizes the power of the flesh through union rith Pocahontas

in"'The Dance," but sees the failure of this punitive truth to

perpetuate itself through the body alone in "1'ndi:mna and r"Cutty

Sark." Though generated by passion, the i:rn agination's truth

cannot be conveyed or tran.smuted by passion alone.

The subject matter of the second half of The Bridge is the

coloration of the spirit of the continent (Crane's alternate

title for "Cape HIatteras"), and the attempts to embody that

spirit in an act of imagination. The subject is the fictional

poet's increasing awareness of the limitations of reason and

intellect (whose act is scientific, like the invention of air-

plcno or sub-;ay) end). the possibilities of the poctic imagination

(whose act i.s the creation of a .iving a;rb.) In "Cape IaC tteras"

the poet auakes front his reverie of the past into a nc', "'drc-r

of act," a odree:n of creating en artif,.ct tha't 'ill enboody the

truth of the spirit,. :In :place of the flso god of gold which

offered itself as a static c Cl .tcrna'.iv, t o the trth of the bV.

and p.alson's r; ..tio1 n "'*ndi:. n': the poet .ic 1 cc i.th


the acts of science and modern technology, symbols of the mind's

attempt to render inert, or inertly mechanical, the living truth

of the spirit. He learns from Whitman to choose "something green"

and living, "beyond all sesames of science," as his proper act.

In "Three Songs" and "Quaker Hill" the poet encounters the

failure of traditional ideals of love and religion to embody

a living truth, but grows in his awareness of the poetic act

as the source of the enduring, living artifact. "The Tunnel"

renders the poet's own movement through the labyrinth of the

mental and mechanical, the mind's possibilities. The death of

the intellect is followed by the dropping of "memory" itself into

the waters of the harbor, as the poet has exhausted the possibili-

ties of both body and mind in his quest for the bridging act of

the unitive imagination. "The Tunnel" ends with the poet invoking

the imagination's power, "0 Hand of Fire/gatherest."

"Atlantis" renders, in a three-fold progression, the poet's

perception-creation of the symbolic Bridge, his reflection on the

powers of the Bridge as "intrinsic Myth," and his passage from

the Bridge to Atlantis (an "attitude of spirit," Crane called it).

The Bridge embodies in "one arc synoptic" the journey that has

preceded it, and it leads "to Thee, 0 Love." It reveals the

unity and harmony of the entire world under the aegis of the love-

driven imagination, a revelation symbolized by the reaching of

Atlantis. Further, the reaching of Atlantis is for the poet a

self-realization of the "intrinsic Myth" of the imagination, and

this realization empowers him to perform his final act, the wrriting

of the poems itself, the casting of his own "mythic spear."


That the process of growth, a learning process (:inference

and discard" yielding "faith" is the image from Avc MIaria"), is

necessary to the poet's ultim'obe recognition of the symbolic

Bridge is stated in "Aitlantis."

Sheerly the eyes, like seagulls stung with rime--
Slit ;:nd propelled by glistening fins of light--
Pick biting way up towering looms that press
Sidelong with flight of blade on tendon blade
--Tomorrows into yesteryear--and link
Vkhat cipher-script of tine no traveller reads
But who, through smoking pyres of love and death,
Searches the timeless laugh of rrmythic spears.

The "cipher-script of time" fused by the Bridge is perceived onJly

by the traveller who can see through the "smoking pyres of love

and death," the subject matter of art, to the r;ythic act of

creation that is art's true subject, that bears witness to the

imagination's "Evcryrccnce.:: This 'is the perception that e--

powers the poet to fulfill his own "dryon of act."

Because the subject of The Bridge is a process, the valacs

of the experiences rendered in the poem must be derived from their

relationship to that process. Since the proccea is one of the

development of consciousness, the poet is primarily a "nent:dl

traveller," moving through states of consciousness toward the

recognition of the imagination's "unitive truth. Values, then,

are determined by the role of various phenor.'.nc; in aiding or

hrc.'.,c;in- the poet's gro-.th of consciousness, advancing or re-

arcding it, illuminating o oobscuiring its goal.9 But this is

not to sa'y that snie vahles are good 'anl others bc-' in r;ri

ethical sense, for a;: the opir;raph to Lhis chapter declares,

"eC otionl ,'. ni.~ra; not to be contfusd wi .: absolute

order of rationir:aived def.initio:ns.' Indeed, tbh I;iti.vec vision


cannot exclude any experience or value; rather, it prevails by

incorporating and transforming everything in its creative act.

Consequently, -Thitman, termed by the poet the Meistersinger

"Of that great Bridge, our Myth," is praised in "Cape Hatteras"

for his "Sea eyes and tidal, undenying, bright with myth." (italics


Not only the structure but also the poetic style renders

the "incarnate evidence" of this process, and thus fulfills its

"Sanskrit charge," revealing the poet's commitment to a living

art, one that possesses and is possessed by its own dynamic

vitality. The dramatic narrative of the fictional poet renders

"the continuous and living evidence of the past in the irrnost

vital substance of the present." And the circular structure of

this dramatic narrative allows the poem to move, not from past

to present, but through the present to the "Everpresence, beyond

time," of Atlantis. Poetic technique concentrates on a similar

presence and immediacy, utilizing coalescence and juxtaposition

of events rather than sequential and causal development to render

the "-continuous and eloquent span" of the poem. Coherence is

achieved through metamorphosis and repetition of images and


As Crane wrote to Waldo Frank:

Are you noticing how throughout the
poem motive and situations recur--
under modifications of environment,
etc? The organic substances of the
poem are holding a great many sur-
prises for me. . Greatest joys
of creation.11

These "organic substances" include, for instance, the met amorphosis

of the Female, symbolic of the love that finally liberates the man


of vision into the mythic realm of the imagination, from the Virgin

of "':ve Maria" through the fiction:'i poet's on: mother and Poca-

hontas, to the Christian types of' .oman ("Eve, IMagdalene, or

Nary, you?") who are the subjects of "Three Songs:" and the ':"op

washeoroman" met on the ride through "The Tunnel." Each symbo-

lizes love sub special acternitatis, and as symbols, rather than

allegorical figures, they are immediate and living. As Crane

wrote to Fran:k, in an exuberant expression of those "greatest

joys of creation,'" conceiving his Colu-mbnus: "ISy plans are

soaring again, the conception swells. Furthermore, this Columbus

is REAL."12

Correlative with Crane's attempt to render the i: agination's

life through his use of symbolism is the use he makes of allusion.

The purpose of the connective act, the making of a bridge, is,

as delineated in "Proem," to "lend a myth to God." Within The

Bridge the unitive act occurs (or significantly fails to occu-r,

thereby affirming itself dialectically through negation) under

various modifications of environment; thus the "GCod" it seeks

tokes on different names. Colurbus "merges the rind in measure

to the waves" and thereby mokes the ocean a bridge which reveals

to him the truth of the ':jincognizasble Word/Of Eden and the encho;ined

Sepulchre," the "sounding heell of "ElohiYr." Maquokcot.a, the

Indian shaman, performs a dance tha-t makes him a livi.n bridge

between heaven and earth, and thereby proves to his own satis-

faction the truth of the In.dian -bbt of the '"largosso': .of the

"im'.iorIal" Earbth-Iothecr gorldoss Poc aon.... s'c~h who is U"virgin to

the last of meon." The i', ,r'ficicncy of the C 'iti-in rnyh to Cod


is evident in "Three Songs," where the poet laments the inefficacy

of the symbolic types of Woman and the loss of "God--your na~e-

lessness." And finally, it is the "intrinsic Myth" of the Bridge

that connects the poet with "Deity's young name." Thus the

poet moves toward his own definition of "God" by experiencing

and assimilating earlier definitions. The allusions to the

myths of other times, "6ther calendars" or other "indexes of

night" ("Atlantis"), are not merely decorative acknowledgements

of a "useless archaeology."3

Crane's purpose is not to acknowledge a tradition, but to

shape and present the living stuff of the imagination in whatever

terms are organically justified:

The great mythologies of the past
(including the Church) are deprived
of enough facade to even launch good
raillery against. Yet much of their
traditions are operative still--in
millions of chance combinations of
related and unrelated detail, psycho-
logical reference, figures of speech,
precepts, etc. These are al a part
of our common experience and the terms
at least .partially, of that very
experience when it defines or extends

The fictional poet of The Bridge lives through the experiences of

Maquokeeta and others in order to revivify them in terms of his

present living imagination. Thus the allusions to old mythologies

are actually made to celebrate the present J-yth of the Bridge,

made to come alive as elements of the poet's experience of life.

As the symbolic Bridge is the organic construct by which the

poet unites time cnd space (puts "The serpent with the eagle in

the leaves" of his poem) in one punitive act that condenses


"Tomorrows into yesteryear," so the device of paradox is the

construction by which the poet yolkes opposites to render an i3--

plicit but vibrant harmony of "things irreconcilable.1" The

Bridge itself is described in paradox: "Implicitly thy freedom

staying thee." And the significance of the Bridge's freedom-

in-stasis, its "motion-in-rcpose, in "Proem," is indicated as

its "impilicit" comment on the possibilities of attaining the

reconciliation of "things irreconcilable," of achieving a

similar unitive yet vital state: "Vibrant reprieve and pardon

thou dost show." The device of paradox is admirably suited to

the rendering of a vital and living art, generating as it does

a punitive meaning implicit in the dualities it yokes.

The Bridge of "Atlantis" functions as a sort of perpetual

paradox, "translating time"' and the manifold separate voices of

time "into what multitudinous Verb the suns/and synergy of waters

ever fuse, recast/In m-yriad syllables--Psalm of Cath-y.'" This

punitive act of the Bridge, of bridging, is the "Psalm of Cath;y,'"

the unceasing song to that punitive state symbolized by Cathay-

Atlantis. And it is essentially the same act as that ncrfornied

by paradox. Indeed, in "'Ave Maria" the life of men is defined

as the "parable of man," a phrase suggesting not only the riddle

of man's existence betweenn :to worlds"' but also the means by

which the riddle is solved, through the creation of the parbola

of a Bridge or the paradox- of lea~?-v e. As "DIeity s young nnve/

Kinetic of white choilring wings. ascendc,"1 the absolv;te of

thoe j nationon truth is ren'ecred, kinetic rand vibrant. The

evocation of passion mad "sy.;r, achieved through [the uso of


paradox recalls a statement by Kierkegaard on the nature of

paradox: "The paradox is the source of the thinker's passion

and the thinker without paradox is like a lover without feeling,

a paltry mediocrity. In a real sense the paradox, the lin-

guistic act of bridging, is the source of the poet's passion in

The Bridge, and thus instrumental in rendering the living act of


Another important technique in the rendering of the imagination' s

efforts to fuse and thereby recreate experience is the use of ety-

mology. Crane's predilection for the dictionary, his constant

search for unique words and a uniqueness of words, is well knonm.

Throughout The Bridge Crane employs words in their radical sense,

drawing upon their etymology to suggest significant ambiguity,

to force latent meaning to the surface. This important tool in

the conquest of consciousness is used effectively in such words

as "bedlamite" ("Proem"), "threshold" ("Proem"), "chevron: (,Ave

Marid'), "Sabbatical" ("Van ilnkle)'), "dorsal" ("Cape HIattcras"),

to fulfill the "Sanskrit charge" to reveal in the present the

living evidence of the past in terms of language itself.

The language of the poem, justly praised for its sensuous

and concrete qualities, is equally important in rendering the

"continuous and eloquent span." Questions, for instance, are

frequent: not "why" questions, which would suggest causes, but

"how'! questions, which suggest new patterns, new shapes, changes

for their own sake. Excl~eations punctuate the poem, as intensity

of feeling becomes a thematic principle in mn organic process

concerned with growth and regeneration. Static, abstract state--

rents, propositional dicta, scientific "theorems sharp as hail"

("Cape Hatteras") are anathema to the organic process, and are

used within the poem only to suggest a state of mind which is

antagonistic to the imagination's growth.

One of the keys to an appreciation of Crane's use of language

to construct his "architectural art" is the recognition of the

generative function and thrust of what Crane called his "logic

of metaphor."

As to technical considerations: the
motivation of the poem must be derived
from the implicit emotional dynamics of
the materials used, and the terms of
expression employed are often selected
less for their logical (literal) significance
than for their associational meanings. Via
this and their metaphorical inter-relation-
ships, the entire construction of the poem
is raised on the organic principle of a
"logic of metaphor," which antedates our
so-called pure logic, and which is the
genetic basis of all speech, hence 16
consciousness and thought-extension.

Defending his use of this technique in one of his poems, Crane

explains a particular image in this way:

Although the statement is pseudo in relation
to formal logic--it is completely logical
in relation to the truth of the imagination,
and there is expressed a concept of speed
and space that could not be handled so well
in other terms.17

That this use of language depends for its effect on the receptivity

of the reader's imagination is clear:

It implies (this inflection of language) a
previous or prepared receptivity to its
stimulus on the part of the reader. . .
If one can't count on sorre such bases
in the reader now and then, J don't see
how the poet has any chance to ever get
beyond the simplest concept..ons of emotion
and thought, of .sensation end lyrical
sequence. If the poet is to be held com;-

pletely to the already evolved
and exploited sequences of imagery
and logic--what field of added
consciousness and increased per-
ceptions (the actual province of
poetry, if not lullabycs) can be
expected when one has to relatively
returniLo the alphabet every breath
or so?

The use of language to push back the frontiers of consciousness

and perception by building an organic construct is Crane's hope

and his goal. "Language has built towers and bridges, but itself

remains as fluid as always."9

Within The Bridge the use of the logic of metaphor is abun-

dantly evident, An example is the flow of the River toward the

Gulf rendered at the end of "The River." The River proceeds,

accumulating and reworking all the diverse elements that :feed

it timelessly," toward union with the Gulf; and it is this

passionate junction of Time and Eternity that carries the poet

into the next section of the poem and the timeless mythic" land

of "The Dance." The thrust of the River, then, is toward a new,

mythic, state of consciousness, and the movement of this thrust

is internal and inferential. The River's force and flow, "0

quarrying passion, undertowed sunlight," moves both linearly

and internally, as it "flows within itself, heaps itself free,'"


The River lifts itself from its long bed,

Poised wholly on its dream, a mustard glow
Tortured with history, its one will--flow.'
--The Passion spreads in wide tongues, choked and slow,
Meeting the Gulf, hosannas silently below.

Here in the concluding lines of "The River" are examples of many of

Crene's poetic techniques, including the logic of metaphor. The


allusions to the Christian Passion and Atoncm.nit heiglhen the

significance of the fusion of Time sad Eternity in terms of the

poet's experience of that fusion. The parade.: of "hosannas

silently below" suggests the implicit yet powerful ijmpuls to

praise the necessary but painful union. The logic of metaphor is

evident in such images as that of the River "poised wholly on

its droeaa," which suggests simultaneously the lifting of the

River upwards and the balancing of the River for one moment

"wholly-: (with a pun on "holy") on its heaping "dream," its

will to flow. Or consider the :mustard glow." of the River, an

image that suggests the suffering of the River as it eeots t-he

I"stinging see.a by inferring the connection between the hot

(hence glo-rwing) and stinging taste of imstard and the mustard

color of the River's "underLtowed sunlight," earlier IJmiaged as

"'ochreous and lyn:-barred." The "implJ.Icit emotional dyna:nics"

of the passage are perhaps "pseudo'in relation to formiln. logic"

(how; could the River be at once a dreamer and poised on top of

its drean? how can mustard "glow i:?), but are "cobupletely

logical in relation to the truth of the imagination."

lihrther, the effect of the passage is not impressionistic

but constructive, not initiative but creative, evocative of a new

state of consciousness. The clustering of images and meotahors

in the passage does not allow for mere retinal regi:.stration"

or "'psycholo,:ic3l. bi;ulr.ion,20 bub forces the reader's sons:i-

bility in a: '" rcdeteor.inedI direction": which is imaginatively

rather th;n intcllectu.l.Iy assented to. 0 As C:rane noticed about

aiothcor of his pocs:


A poem like Possessions really
cannot be technically explained.
It must rely (even to a large
extent with myself) on its or-
ganic impact on the imagination
to successfully imply its meaning.

The impact of the poem is pre-reflective, and, as Eliot remarked

about great poetry, is felt before it is understood. It conveys

itself immediately and vitally, by "organic" impact on the ima-

gination rather than the impressionistic "retina," what Crane

called "the readiest surface of consciousness, at least relatively
so. And it succeeds insofar as the audience has "an active or
inactive imagination as its characteristic." The poet, of

course, is liable to error and excess in this process, but as

Crane noted, "it is part of the poet's business to risk not only

criticism--but folly--in the conquest of consciousness."24

Crane's dependence on the reader's imagination for help in

the conquest of consciousness is indicative both of his goal and

his method in The Bridge. Both structure and style in his long

poem are engaged in the "actual (physical) representation of the

incarnate evidence" of the poet's experience of the world, in

an attempt to make The Bridge itself a Bridge for the reader.

Accordingly, a critical reduction of the "incarnate evidence" to

ideas and abstractions about the world to some extent begs the

question. A recent critic formulated the problem:

A work of art encountered as a work
of art is an experience, not a state-
ment or an answer to a question. Art
is not only about something; it is
something. A work of art is a thing
in the vorld, not just a text or
commentary on the world.25


The protoccn nature of The Tricdge is not conducive to argtuient;

rather, it invites description, en.ryusis, illiminrition. The

fol.loAing chapters c.tteipt to sug-gcst the pocm's structure.

relationships -i d the values inherent in those relationships.

;yr thesis is thJA the values affimed in The Bridge, both

structurally end stylistically, are those explicitly stated in

Crane's aesthetic theory, and that an appreciation of the poem

is best gained by a perception of the relationship of the

aesthetic theory to the "living stuff of the ima,.gination'

embodied in The Bridge.


"Proem" dedicates The Bridge to the Brooklyn Bridge, that

organic construction which measures the sun and spans the harbor

with pure and "unfractioned idiom,'; and propels the poem and the

fictional poet on towards Atlantis, where his own act of imagination

occurs. The muse to whom the poet prays in this prelude to what

Crane called his :symphonic" poem is the Bridge, and he hopes to

draw succor and inspiration from this symbol of the completed and

successful act of imagination. Such a hope is in accordance with

Crane's three-fold poetic process, for the poet addresses the

Bridge in "Proem" as "harp and altar of the fury fused," a

completed act, and declares that "we have seen night lifted in

thy arms." The Bridge, then, is the embodiment of the truth of

the imagination, the unspoken but "active principle" which propels

the poet toward "new spiritual articulations." Thus the relation-

ship between the poet and the Bridge in ':Proem" is exactly that

which Crane hoped to establish between his poem and the reader.

In "Proem" a symbolic e.-xansion occurs, as the literal

Brooklyn Bridge of the dedication grows into the particular act

of imagination, "Thee, across the harbor, silver-paced," and

finally cores to symbolize not only an act of imagination but the

imagination itself, "Sleepless" and vital, "Vaulting the sea, the

prairies' drean:ing sod." The poet cones to recognize the Bridge

as synboleic of the imagination itself, invoking it as Ilhse for



aid in his journey toward his own act, emphasizing his commit-

ment to the laws of the imagination. By dedicating his poem to,

and drawing his inspiration from, an artifact, the poet asserts

his belief that the act of imagination begets further acts.

By asking the Bridge for a "myth to God" he reaffirms his faith

in the only absolute to which Crane ever ascribed, the "truth

of the imagination."

A key to the form of "Proem" comes from Crane's letter to

Waldo Frank of July 21, 1926. Crane was emerging front two weeks

of deep despair over possibilities not only of his poem but of

civilization itself. The cause of his despair is uncertain; he

had been reading Spengler, and had also been suffering from

abscesses in both cars. Critics have used his letters of this

period as evidence that he knew The Bridge, with its optimism,

to be a failure, if not insincere. However, it seems that the

circumstances of his remarks were litigating. Certainly his

following coynents on "Proem" are not pessimistic:

I feel an absolute music in the air
again, and some tremendous rondure
floating somewhere--perhps rmy little
dedication is going to swing mc b-i 'ck
to San Cristobal again. . That little
prelude, by the way, T thin to be
almost the best thing I've over written,
something steady and uncoiroromising about
it. Do you notice ho its construction
parallels the peculiar technique of
snace and detail division used by El
Creco in several c.-nva sc:s--notably
the Christus an Olbcrg? ('ve just
been struck by thab iil.e casually
returning to my little i(O, .C -: as
I often dco.]-

The u xicl and airciitect!G ural rnr.log-ies, nich! Crane a-;T:l.ics


elsewhere to his poetry, arc used here to express his joy at the

renewed recognition of the power of the imagination and the

"tremendous rondure," recalling VWhitman's image of the unitive

act of the imagination, "floating somewhere." In a sense, "Proem"

seems to have served to rededicate Crane to The Bridge and its

possibilities, for it was written midway through the composition

of the larger poem. There is a "steady and uncompromising"

quality about this "prelude," due to several factors. It has

the reposeful motion of a mobile, suspended yet turning irithin

its own certain structure. It begins with the question-exhorta-

tion "How" and concludes with the resolution of "O." A sense

of eternal motion is achieved through the use of indefinite time

words, rather than the poem's frequent immediate and strong verbs,

as in "How marny dawns," "Then,' "Never," "All afternoon," "still,"

"dost," "Again." And the diurnal progress from morning to night

contains the piece. Against this subdued background is set the

Bridge, emphasized by exclamation and the imagery of deity in the

fourth stanza, invoked for its "myth to God" in the last. As in

El Greco's Christ on the Mount of Olives, the central figure shines

out against an obscure background. Vignettes occur on the peri-

phery of the Bridge, where the multitudes stare at the cinema

and the bedlamite rushes from his "scuttle cell" to leap from the

Bridge; but at the forefront of the poet's vision and conscious-

ness is the Bridge itself, "silver-paced" in sunlight, shining

with immaculatee sigh of stars" at night.

The use of the analogy to El Greco's painting, and his

"space and detail division," is apt. Not .i:r,.lyr because there is

a rough correspondence between the figures of '-Proeom and the


painting, but because of a more important correspondence in the

technique of spatial representation. It is perhaps significant

that El Greco did not use fix:ed-point perspective, which ]IcLuh n

has correctly associated with rationaleistic modes of thought,

and that Crane likened himself to the painter on this score.

For in 'Procer' the central figures derive their significance

from a symbolic rather than rational relationship to their

surroundings, a relationship derived from their synthesis of and

relevance to their environment. hitchede, a contemporary whom

Crane read, suggested the nature of such a relationship:

%very actual thing is something by
reason of its activity; whereby its
nature consists in its relevance to
other things, and its individuality
consists of its synthesis of other
things so far as they are relevant
to it.2

In "Proem" the technique of spatial division assumes the forn of

juxtaposition, w.rith emphasis achieved through description and

exclnmnation, position, and contrast. The stanza is the unit of I

composition, similar to the shot in the movies, and the poet's

consciousness, vision and mcaory zoon up, around, do.mn, but

always return to the Bridge, each t:iUoe :iJning it as a nore

inclusive and more powerful syribol. Several critics have noted

that all of the themes of The Dridge are found in "Proci:," and

in fact there scc;s to be a rough correspondence betucen the

eleven stanzas of "Proe:- and the dcvelopment of The -.-c. The

point is not that Pro-o "l c.hibits a cne-to-one colrospondcrcce

in develop- cnt with Te ;'.'. bLL that n its s:iholic .:ode

of ureccntpation as ;cl*l as i't;; thc ir; c co: tion to I th e lie and


power of the imagination "Proem" stands as prelude and icon to

The Bridge.

The first image of "Proem" is of the seagull rising from

the harbor of Manhattan ab dawn, flying up towards the new sun

and out towards the ocean, leaving behind the "chained bay waters"

and "building high" in its flight '"Liberty." The act is a natural

one, and cyclical, occurring every day at darn; it draws from the

poet an exclamation-question, "How many dawns,' which suggests

his wonderful appreciation, his awe, perhaps.even his longing for

a similar release. The :image of the gull rising at the sign of

the sun, "Shedding white rings of tumult," suggests regeneration,

renewal, and subtly associates the gull image with a later one,

that of "Time like a serpent"; for here in "Shedcding" is the hint

of the sloughing off of old skins, old lives and times as well as

spaces, of the movement toward life through death and metamorphosis.

This movement, it will be seen, is emblematic of the movement of

The Bridge, which is just such a "Shedding' of past times and

other places. The activity of the gull is imaged in an architectural

metaphor, that of "building high," and the artifact is "Liberty,"

both the quality of liberty and, literally, the Statue of Liberty.

Just as the warmth and light of the sun have freed the gull from

his cold "rippling rest" on the harbor waters, so his creative

flight symbolizes Liberty for the poet. Here "Liberty" suggests

both freedom and love, for the Statue of Liberty is one image of

the Uoman symbolic of liberating Love whom the poet invokes

throughout the poem. The result of the gull's constructive flight

is the unitive act of the "inviolate curve," his perfect bridge-like


sweep that has emerged from the "white rings of tumult"' and arches

over them as the Bridge arches over the harbor.

From the image of the ascending gull the poet's vision

turns downward, and the confinement and redundancy of the Man-

hattan :multitudes" are described: dealing in abst-ractions,

"figures to be filed away," they work in the office buildings

of the city until elevators "drop" them "from our day." For

them the sight of the gull's inviolate curve is "apparitional,"

deprived of its flesh-and-blood vitality, and in its place are

"cinemas, panoramic sleights," the "flashing scene/Never disclosed,

but hastened to again." I'.here the sight of the gull was a

revelation to the poet, the failure of the mechanical repetition

of the cinematic scenes lies precisely in the fact that they are

'never disclosed," never fully revealed in any completcenss or

unity, never capable of the inviolate curve. The poet, who saw

with his yes the gull, here "thinks" of the multitudes watching

the cinemas, subtly acknowledg:in2 the distinction between immediate

and vital experience and abstract reflection, a division united

in the Bridge.

The transitory organic freedom of the gull and the perpetual

mechanical confinement of the cinemas are harioniz.d in the

description of the Bridge:

And Thee, across the harbor, silver-paced
As th-u;j the sun took steo of thee, yet left
Some motion over unsment in thy stridcl:,--
:.Impolicitly thby frccd.cir, staying theCo

'The Dri._rge is a'union of thbe o-' nic and the nchaniLcal, the grcat

artifact of the of i-.chino-ag:e ibich mer.gcres the .un. c.'h to e th gll

was urged to flight by the :un, ald the office brij.ldi.n.':s stb o'ut

the sun, confining the poet to "thought," the Bridge and the

sun are mutually defining. Like musical notes and the staff on

which they are set, the sun takes "step" of the Bridge yet leaves

"Some motion ever unspent" in its stride. The image foreshadows

that of "Atlantis," where the supporting cables of the Bridge

are gleamingg staves." The Bridge joins in concert the sun and

steel, the gull and the cinema, the body and the mind. It joins

the rhythms of life itself, the flight of the gull, the motion

of the sun, with the permanence of the artifact; it is not

static, but dynamic, evincing "Some motion ever unspent" in its

"stride." It is the act of the imagination, serving for the

poet as an absolute, the deific "Thee" which is both the source

and goal of the poetic process, the new condition of life which

generates "new spiritual articulations."- From the gull's act of

creating, building, "Liberty" the poet has turned to the symbolic

artifact itself, the more permanent Bridge.

The Bridge, the completed act of imagination, suggests the

same implicit but certain freedom the Bridge evinces: "Implicit-

ly thy freedom staying thee.'" In "staying" lies the paradox of

the living truth of the imagination, for the Bridge is simul-

taneously supported by and confined to its harmonious system. It

is a freedom to be itself, but a freedom which demands that it be

nothing else. It is the freedom of the "Ding an Sich," Crane's

absolute of the truth of the imagination which must be assented

to as "self-evident," implicit.

An abortive response to the implicit freedom of the Bridge

is made by one of the multitudes in the nec-t stanza. The "bcdlamite"

rushes from his "subway scuttle, cell or loft" and leaps from

the Bridge while unconcerned motorists continue on their "speech-

less caravan." The bedlamite's fall into the harbor is contrasted

with the gull's ascending flight, and with the Bridge's arching

freedom, and his failure is imaged in teirns of speech, for he I

is but a "jest" that "falls from the speechless caravan" crossing

the Bridge. His attempt to emerge from the confinement of his "'cell'

and its "scuttle" darkness into the light and freedom of the Bridge

is not, however, an act of despair, but a search for a rebirth, as

the etnmol.ogy of "bedlamite" suggests. Crane's penchant for using

words in their radical sense is well. illustrated here, for "bedlam"

refers both to the famous lunatic asylum in London called Bedlam

and to the full nane of that abbreviation: the hospital of St.

I'ary of Bethlehem. Thus the bedlamite is associated not only

with insanity but also with Bethlehem and the birth of the Word-

made-Ilesh, and while he fails to achieve a similar rebirth here

his intentions are clear, le is seeking the s:'ea sort of freedom,

that of the integrity and harmony of the truth of the imagination,

which the Bridge evinces. As Rol o H-y suggests, :to be dronmed

in order to be born again--this is the myth of the positive intc-

grative aspect of experiencing truth."3 The death by droning

is a necessary- descent, the process of purificaicn a-nd assimi-

lation as the poet describes it in "The RiverI- which prepares

for the eventual rebirth of the tr-uth of the i.ain.:tion., the

embodiment of the truth of the ijmgin'-tion n ithe act of the

im:.:inat:ion, which the poet hore :i? ":c: as the Incarnat:ion of

the Uiord-m.adce-Fles1, th;..t in C11hrliti.' trai].tixon orccu.r:od in


Bethlehem. In ''bedlcaite"' Crane initiates a series of images

centering around the Christian myth of the Incarnation which

persists throughout The Bridge, and which describes not the

birth of Christ but the recurrent birth of the imagination's

truth, the continual recreation by the Bridge of the "'multi-

tudinous Verb" of "ltlantis." This use of the Incarnation as

image of the creation of the poem further extends to the unifi-

cation of time and space in one moment, for the act of the ima-

gination puts "the serpent with the eagle in the leaves," joins

time and space, just as in Christian tradition the Incarnation

represents the total unity of time and space in one moment (as

witness our dating of time from Christ's birth). Thus the

bedlacmite, who tilts on the Bridge "momently, attempts a

similar act of unity.

The death by drowning of the bedlanite is followed by an

image of the Bridge as living, as its "cables breathe the North

Atlantic still," suggesting again the enduring life of the act

of the imagination. The sun of noon "leaks" into the city,

"Down Wall, from girder into street," in an image of liquid fire,

as "A rip-tooth of the sky's acetylene." The simultaneous

suggestion of creation and destruction in the "rip-tooth" subtly

carries on the association of birth through death that characterized

the bedlamite, but with the difference that here the creation is

the organic construction, where the vital sun is imaged as the

mechanic.aO. acetylene torch that shapes, as it were, the city itself

by firing the space around the buildings, ordering them by its

light into definite fonrs. It is the image of architectural


construction, the harnessing of life forces to make and shape,

the flow of the vital on the inanimate that involves both de-

struction and creation, juxtaposed with the living Bridge.

The next four stanzas amplify the qualities of the

symbolic Bridge. It promises a guerdonn" that is "obscure as

that heaven of the Jews," an image which suggests the this-

worldly quality of the act of the imagination. The heaven of

the Jews is a heaven-on-earth, a unity and harmonization of the

natural, not a place removed from the world. It is "obscure"

because it is indefinite, shrouded, though its force is felt.

The "accolade" which the Bridge "bestows" has a similar "ano-

nymity" that "time cannot raise" or, by the pun, "raze." The

association of "anonymity" with the powerful "Accolade" of the

Bridge recalls Crane's belief that the force of the absolute

truth of the imagination is felt rather than named, "impossible

to enunciate, but self-evident" (in "Southern Cross" the poet

specifically associates his absolute with this anonymity, de-

claring "It is/God--your namelessness"). It is this pre-verbal

quality of the Bridge that moves the poet toward his own "spiritual

articulations," and that sets it beyond the power of time and

change. The Bridge "shows" a "Vibrant reprieve and pardon" to

the poet, a living and harmonious freedom from time and death,

the sa'ie sort of freedom that attracted the bedlamite. Here it

invites the poet to lift up his eyes to consider the Bridge's

"reprieve and pardon," and the upward motion, in contrast to the

bedlamite's descent, sur.----ts the e;~-crgence and, release which the

act of the imargination o. .

This uplifting motion occasions religious imagery to de-

scribe the Bridge as an object of prayer: "0 harp and altar,

of the fury fused." The literal-resemblance of the Bridge to

both harp and altar seems clear, but on the symbolic level this

description suggests a dual role for the Bridge: it is both the

instrument of harmony and the place of sacrifice and worship,

the altar, where the power of the absolute of the truth of the

imagination is celebrated and made manifest. By joining the

symbol of the poet (the harp) and the deity in one, the poet

suggests that the impetus to God is really the impetus of the

imagination toward its mythic truth. The Bridge is "Terrific

threshold of the prophet's pledge,/Prayer of pariah and the

lover's cry." As "threshold" it is associated with growth,

and since the poet is at this point beneath this threshold there

is the suggestion of the subliminal reception of the act of the

imagination as well as of the motion upwards and onwards that

characterizes the organic life of the imagination in its move-

ment toward its truth in utterance. The image foreshadows the

symbolic union of nature and the machine that occurs under the

aegis of the Bridge in "Atlantis," where "the cities are endowed/

And justified conclanant with ripe fields/Revolving through their

harvests in sweet torment." As "prayer of pariah" the Bridge, as

the act of the imagination, serves as symbol of the desire of the

outcast for union, integration, the full disclosure denied the

multitudes at the cinemas. As the "lover's cry" the Bridge

symbolizes the act of the imagination in its hope for a response

from the world, for a renewal of life gained from the poem's efficacy


on the reader's consciousness. The "lover's cry" involves both

joy and pain, end the cry is concomitant wi-th the birth of the

truth of the imngination, rendered in the poem itself.

In the next stanza night has fallen, and the Bridge in

darkness is beaded by traffic lights "that skim" its swiftif/

Unfractioned idiom." The "'inviolate curve" of the gull has here

become, with !an. important change, the "Unfractioned idiomr: of

the Bridge. The speech im-agery in the "Unfractioned idiom" and

the immaculatee sigh of stars" emphasizes that, rather than the

merely natural flight of the gull, the Bridge as act of the

imagination is an artifact of words, of poe-try, an organic

construction, and that The Bridge is the attei;pt to create such

a Bridge, such a "multitudinous Verb." It hamnonizes the nechani-

cal traffic lights as well as the "i-maculate sigh of stars;;

in its "path," its "stride," its "Unfractioned idiom,' a2nd by

so doing it can "condense eternity." Thus the Bridge in "Proemo

is a sign, a liuse, a symbol of possibilities for the poet himself,

who hopes to accomplish in his poem a similar haimonization. His

hopes lie in the fact that 'we have seen night lifced in thino

ans,' that i.n the past he has kno;n the pow-er of the act of the

im.agination to bring light out of the darkness. lie prays not to

the natural gull, nor to the mental figures and fractions, but to

the ect of the imr.gination itself, the Bridge that unifies both

nrftroe and the nental.-nech'nicale in its "Unfractioned idiom."'

As "'!roemn: dra.-s to a clore the process by ,which.theO poLe

has moved from the vision of the gu.ll flyin' to::uar1 the sun finds

him under the sh:,',do- of the Bridge, ,-.,iting. He h -s proved Lthrough


the City to the Bridge, from the natural through the mechanical

to the imaginative, and he declares that "Only in darkness is thy

shadow clear.' The season of Chri.stmas is suggested: "The City's

fiery parcels all undonc,/Already snow submerges an iron year."

And in conjunction with Christmas and the earlier bedlamitee"

the waiting of the poet suggests a waiting for an epiphany, a

birth, an insight. The paradox of the shadow of the Bridge being

clear "only in darkness" suggests that the ultimate reality of

the Bridge resides within the poet himself, that he has had to

undergo a symbolic blinding of his mental faculties in order to

truly perceive the force of the Bridge within himself as an

"active principle" in his own consciousness. The organic con-

struct of the act of the imagination is light-ridden, glorious,

but the readers final acceptance of it must be in the dark inar-

ticulate regions of his consciousness, where it will serve to

generate further acts of the imagination. This is the relation-

ship of the poet to the Bridge at the end of "Proem," where he

has finally come under the Bridge to wait for it to 'sometime

sweep, descend/And of the curveship lend a ryth to God." He

has come to recognize that the arching curve of the gull and

the Bridge's "'Unfractioncd idiom2 embody a truth that is his

truth too, that of the life and power of the imagination which

lies dormant, like the "prairies' dre? .ng sod,.'" wi:tin hii..

Thus, he prays to, invokes, the imagination itself, what

Crane called the "power-in-repose" that is "Sleepless as the

river under thee," the power of the life of the imagination.

He recognizes that the "Unfractioned idiorm" of the arching Bridge


is an '.rc on the circular process hereby the act of the imagination

rcsul ts from the life of the ia .gii.ntion and begets further im a~ina-

tive life. Thus he perceives that he himself is the other half

of the arching Bridge, aCnd necessary to the u.nitive life of the

imagination, that the "curveship" of the act of the :u inagination

finds its source and goal in the life of the imagination itself, /

that he and the Bridge together fonr, a viitive circle. Thus he

introduces The Bridge, the record of how' the imagination becaric

c~onorcred to create the Bridge, to embody its o.~n trath in its

own act so as to become a nc:r condition of life that, as Crane

believed, would generate "new- spiritual articulations."


"Ave Maria" records the struggle of Columbus, the American

prototype of the man of imagination, to bring back home the "word"

of his discovery of "Cathay." His initial discovery of land is

told in retrospect, for as the poem opens he has already experienced

this revelation. The imagery suggests that his problem is that of

the second step in Crane's three-fold poetic process, namely the

bringing to light for others, the making of a bridge to, the

truth of the imagination. Columbus succeeds in transforming the

ocean that threatens his "word" into a bridge that carries

"Cathay" back to Europe. But Columbus discovers by his act,

the harmonization of wind and water in one "teeming span," the

regenerative nature and "Everpresence" ("iAtlantis") of the

imagination itself. Thus it is that the second step of the poetic

process leads to the third, where the new discovery of the imaginatioD'S

truth becomes a "condition of life" that begets further "spiritual

articulations." And "Ave Maria," begun with a prophecy, concludes

where it began, with Columbus affirming "still one shore beyond


The relationship of '"Ave hIaria" to The Bridge derives from

its relationship to this same circular process of the imagination's

life. Since consciousness must precede memory, etc., in the process

of cognition, it is proper that this "history" (':Ab].antis")

of the "modern consciousness" begin with the first consciousness


of America. Columbus is an historical persontag that the poet

of The Br.idge must move through if he is to re-cnrmct the Ancri-

can lyth in a contemporary setting, rediscover Cathay-Atlantis

via the Bridge. Columbus is the first representative of the

American consciousness, as depicted by his warning to the

Spaniard Ferdinand and his repudiation of the materialism which

he senses to be both the basis of the European caste system

and a threat to the imaginative exploitation of the newly-

discovered Cathay. The association of Columbus with conscious-

ness is further emphasized by the fact that the entire section

is direct discourse, a product of his speech, a dramatic mono-

logue delivered in the present from which the protagonist of

The Bridge is absent. The rest of the poem is presented in

terms of the protagonist's present existence, and constitutes

a descending movement through memory to blood memory, then

upwards to the realization of the act of the imagination in the

present. As the sighting of the gull began the movement of the

protagonist toward the Bridge in "Proem," so here the presentation

of Columbus and his men, the "Great White Birds" of the American

consciousness, begins a movement toward the Bridge of The Dridge,

which is the protagonist's o:wn act of the imagination. '"Ave

M.4ria,! then, serves as a sort of farewell to Europe and European

values and ori.ginAes the development of the American conscious-

ness in terms of the life of the iumgin-ation. Thus :Ave i:ria"

represents the fir.t consciousness of AImerica as "'Cathpy,'

through which the poet must move in order to enbo)d the truth"

of inoric?. in The ]rig e

1Within "Ave Maria" Columbus moves from a conscious

evocation of historical personages, and the ritual forms of the

prayer "Ave Maria" and hynmn "Te Deum," to a recognition of a new

mode of consciousness, that of the creative, mythic imagination.

Within men the imagination emulates the Logos itself, the hidden

source of the energies of the universe. Columbus's movement is

characterized by a transformation of the mental abstractions into

existential realities, vital specifics. The transformation is

a stripping process whereby the historical Queen and King and

Luis de San ?ngel, the theological Maria and Deus and Angelus,

come down to love, system and music, finding their true source

in "kingdoms naked in the trembling heart." This movement

through reflective consciousness and the sentience of the body

finds its resolution in the "parable of man," the organic

construction of the imagination's Ukindled Crown," the circular,

punitive emblem of those "kingdoms naked." And as the poet moves

through Columbus's conquest of consciousness to the conquest of

the "body of the continent" in "Powhatan's Daughter," "Ave Maria"

initiates a larger movement through The Bridge which it itself


"Ave Maria" stands in prophetic relationship to The Bridge

in the same way that the introductory epigraph from Seneca stands

in prophetic relationship to '"Ave Maria." In The Morning of the

Magicians the authors quote from a speech by the historian Rene

Alleau concerning the relevance of the epigraph from Modea to


Even in the case -of still more
important discoveries thnnb these,
we underestimate the influence of
data supplied by the Ancients.
Christopher Columbus admitted
openly how much he owed to the
old philosophers, poets and sages.
It is not generally known that
Columbus copied out twice the
chorus in the second act of Seneca's
tragedy Medea, in which the author
speaks of a world destined to be
discovered in future centuries.
This copy can be examined in the
MS. of Las profecias in the Library
at Seville. Columbus also remem-
bered Aristotle's observations
regarding the roundness of the
Earth in his treatise De Coelo.

The significance which Colnmbus attached to the epigraph seems

to be that of both intellectual knowledge and ritual-incantation,

with the latter being more import amt. The epigraph served as a

talisman for Columbus, and his invocation of it suggests that he

considered himself in a line, a tradition, of voyaging explorers

whose calling resembled a kind of manifest desLiny. In the

"Atlantis'" section of 'ITe Bridge the kinship of Columbus, and of

the poet himself, with earlier explorers is established, as the

Bridge unites Tyre, Troy and "you, aloft there--Jason!' with

Columbus and the poet in their efforts to "wrap harness to the

swamning ir!.' Thus, as Columbus saw himself in the lino of the

Ancients, so the poet suggests that he is in the line of Coliu--

bus, the prototype of the .American imagination. !nd jus as

Columbus invoked the Ancioent prophecy as justi:rication :ror his

voyaeo, so the poet invokes Colu-;Ibus himself, the dij.:cvcreir of

Amncrica, for jusLification in this initiatory st.-. of The Pr -

The cp.igraph from Senoca hrts the po:cwer of ribric for Col. 'bn; it

is a set form, a ritual invocation, rather than a source of

geographical knowledge, and his problem in "Ave Maria" is to in-

fuse new vitality, new truth, into this rubric, to make Seneca's

prophecy come true for him. The poet too has this problem, for

he must make Columbus's discovery of "Cathy" (which in "Ave

Maria" and in Crane's notes is more an "attitude of spirit" than

a physical locale) come true in modern !merica. Thus his dis-

covery of Atlantis is a discovery of "Cathry" as well, and a

recognition of the fundamental truth that underlies the state

discovered, no matter what its name.

The form of "Ave Maria" follows its function as initial

step in the creation of the Bridge, for it imitates the process

whereby the imagination assimilates and integrates all disparate

elements into itself for the purpose of recreating them in a

unified construct of its own making. The subject of '~Ave Maria"

is the consciousness of Columbus attempting to bring to light and

life "the word" of its discovery, its "truth, now proved." The

movement is one of descent from the initial discovery into the

dark heart of the storim and immediate situation in which

Columbus finds himself, followed by a regeneration, an ascent

into light and an assent to the truth of the imagination's

accretion-creation of "This turning rondure whole." A "Te Deum"

hyim in praise and recognition of the power that supports the

punitive nature of the cosmos concludes the poem. Briefly, then,

the structure of "Ave Maria" is that of a struggle resolving in

a song, which of course is the same structure of The Bridge



Writing to Waldo Frank, Crane commented on the rhythms of

the poem: "observe the water-swell rhythm that persists until

the Palos reference. Then the more absolute and marked intimation

of the great Te Deum of the court, later held,--here in terms of

C. 's onm cosmography.3" This movement from the "Crested and

creeping, troughing corridors" of the rough sea which threatens

the ship to the harmonization of sea and ship where "Dark waters

onward shake the dark prow free' rhytbhmical6ly reflects the pro--

cess of harmonization which characterizes the act of the imagination,.

and results from "Some inmost sob, half-heard" which "'Merges the

wind in measure to the waves." Similarly, the movement from the

light of Columbus's recollection of Spain and his first sight-

ing of Cathay down into the darkness which surrounds the central

action of "Ave 'Maria," the merging of wind and wave by the 'in.-

most" sob, and from there up with the "modulated fire" of "The

kindled Croin," reflects the integration of consciousness and

experience into the life of the imagination which inust precede

the enlightened recognition of the punitive nature of the truth

of the imagination. "Ave lHaria," then, traces in its movement

a curve that is the opposite of the arching Bridge: froml light

to dark to light, from the opening speech of Columbus down through

the churning rhy.hmns of the sea and, finally, up in Jmeasurcd

song. ,.here the central figure of 'Proen" was the completed

Bridge, here the central figure is ColulIbus descending into tihe

subterranean depths of the self, the cdrk hear, in search o.f

the "inmost sob" th"t can create a tcE '.: spn,n" a Bri ic, out-

of the thrcatni' occ.n, 'i.' 'wAvpe iria centers on th' other

half of the circular process by which a Bridge is created, the

assimilation and integration of disparate elements by the living


The situation of Columbus at the beginning of "Ave Maria"

is similar to that of the poet at the end of "Proem," for both

"have seen" a truth that they are presently attempting to trans-

late into a "word." Columbus is trying to bring back the word

of his discovery of Cathay, and the poet is trying to write a

record of his vision of the Bridge. And as the poet begins his

effort with the example of Columbus, so Columbus begins his effort

with the remembrance of "Luis de San Angel. .. 0 you who reined

my suit/Into the Queen's great heart that doubtful day." A

response from the "Queen's great heart" made possible the journey

of Columbus, just as the answered prayer to "Madre Maria," the

"inmost sob, half-hear," calmed the stormy ocean. The Queen is

the mediatrix between Columbus and Ferdinand, just as the Virgin

in Christian tradition stands between man and God, and just as )

the Bridge in "Proem'W stands between the poet and "a myth to

God." But, as Crane noted in his letter to Frank, the "cosmo-

graphy" of Columbus provides merely the "terms"' of "Ave Maria,"

so Crane is not necessarily appealing to the truths of the Christian

religion. Rather, he is imaging what was for him a more fundamental

truth, that of the life of the imagination, and it is the move-

ment into the "heart" that is important, for from it the "love"

necessary to the act of imagination is drawm. The heart is the

vital center of life itself, the source of the passions that can

be turned to poetry by the imagination's act.' In the beginning

~ ~ ~___ ~


of "Ave 1IMaria" the sea itself is alive with "Invisible valves. .

locks, tendons," like some great heart, but it is "horsh," and

':tests the word" of the initial discovery. IL must be harmonized,

pacified, if the word is to survive. Columbus recalls his first

siighting of "The Chan's great continent," when '"faith, not fear/

Nigh surged me witless." He remembers that earlier, more pro-

pitious juxtaposition of the ocean's energies and human vision:

.. Hearing the surf near--
I, wonder-breathing, kept the watch,--saw
The first palm chevron the first lighted hill.

This sighting is his inspiration, his breath of F-wonder"' that

turned fear to *"faith." Yet implicit in this image of the "first {

paJ3m as "chevron" of the "first lighted hill" (note the emphasis

on the "first," the prototypical) is the descent and deabh that

must follow if the vision is to be brought back in a "word."' For

in the choice of "chevron" Crane invokes the word's etymological

association with the goat of sacrifice and the tragic note that

is the "goat's song." Paradoxic.ally the palm, the tree of life, i

is linked with the goat of death and sacrifice, s,"'C.- ing the

insep .r-able union of death and resurrection which C:c"ne uses to

ii.'--c the purifying, atoning process of the imagination through-

out The Bridge. The Christian allusion implicit in the *iri.ge is

more explicit in the later reference to the "incognizable i.orcd/0

Eden and the enchained Sepulchre," and supports the relationship

betwccn this death and the birth of the "w.ord."

Significantly, Columbus:'s sighting of the pal.; on tho :hill.

is fol.loecd :i.h edio;e]y by a descendlinf notion, thrt; of "lower:n'r,.;

Exactly wht :is ".lo;:orcd'- is uncertl.in, w iotherr th,? anc;nor, i.ho


sall. boats of the ship, or even Columbus himself from his look-

out in the masts; but this indefiniteness functions to emphasize

the motion itself, the descent that follows the revelation, and

which, hopefully, leads to the recording of that revelation in

the "word" of the discovery. The voyage of Columbus is associated

with the flight of the gull in :'Proem," for the Indians greet

him and his sailors crying,/'The Great WJhite Birds.' 1," and by

inference the sighting of the palm on the hill is linked with the

gull's ascending flight, both natural inspirations that encourage

man to embody their truth in the act of the imagination, the "word."

Columbus attempts a birth of the word in the abortive gesture of

dropping into the sea a "casque"; containing news of his discovery

and "record of more," which falls, foetus-like, from "under bare

poles." This historically and poetically fruitless attempt to

convey the word of his discovery, to bring it to birth, ends as

mere "pawn," with the derogatory pun on "spawn," for the sea, and

echoes the similarly abortive death of the bedleamite, the "jest'

from the "speechless caravan" of "Proem," who drowns in that

world of water which "tests the word."

Contrasted with the aborted word of the casque and the

bedlamite is the vital 'inmost sob" which "dissuades the abyss,/

Merges the wind in measure to the waves," and leads to the hymn

Te Deum at the conclusion of "Ave 'aria.' The motion of descent

continues from the image of the ca:sque being dropped into the

water to the imr.age of the "shadow." that "cuts sleep from the

heart/Almdost as though the lMoor's flung scimiritar/Found more than

flesh to fathom in its fall.," and the descending rhythm and


lengthening vowel sounds of the last line echo the sense. The

descent has become interiorized, moving into the heart of Columbus,

threatening that faith that is "more than flesh," both his Christian

faith and his faith in his vision of Catha. But it. is at this

point that the "inmost sob, half-heard" and by implication half- A

spoken, like the "whispers antiphonal" at the end of "'Atl.ntis,"

occurs to ;"dissuade the abyss" and instigate an outward, upward

motion that results in the harmonization and unification of the

entire cosmos. This "inmost sob" is the paradoxical cry of joy

and pain that heralds the emergence, the birth, of the act of the )

imagination; it is the perfect fusion, the point of atonement,

which precedes the resurrection of the vital "word."' It ema-

nates from the heart, the center of vitality and love, and moves

through the eyes and mouth, the seat of voice, vision, and system,

into the light as music. The outward, expansive movement proceeds

through "Series on series, infinite,--til eyes/Starved wide on

blackened tides, accrete-enclose/This turning rondure whole,

this crescent ring." The circle symbolizes the un-itive vision

that is accreted-created by the upward notion throgiz the eyes

of that initial "inmost sob," an act that recalls the gull's

constructive upward flight through '-white rings of tlrml.t.:

.nd the "inviolate curve" of the ]gull is here the "crescent

ring," the arc on the curvature of the earth which is now pnor-

ceived as part of the whole circle t nd i.'ll not "-forske our

eyes," as did the natural gill. For this "crescent rinT;: th-t t

bespeaks a "tur: i ron. Mlcu whole: i-; an or anic const-ction

"Sun-curped a-nd z-oned writh' nodul:lted fire/Like poa.is thtn


whisper through the Doge's hands." The "hands" suggest a human /

maker and shaper of this organic construction, and foreshadow A

the later "Te Deum laudamus/0 Thou Hand of Fire." It is not

God who is the maker, though Columbus's "cosmography" terms him

so, but the Promethean and human imagination itself, the source

of the "inmost sob." And the comparison of the gradually light-

ening earth to "pearls that whisper through the Doge's hands"

emphasizes the role of the human maker, for it is based on the

fact that pearls take their color and warm glow from contact

with human flesh. The source of the circle of unitive vision

is Columbus himself, Crane's prototype of the American man of

imagination, who has embodied his "inmost sob" in the "turning

rondure whole," and now proceeds to assent, through his con-

cluding hymn Te Deum, to the truth of his imaginative vision.

Between the description of Columbus's struggle with the

sea and his hymn of praise occurs a transitional stanza, separated

from the rest by asterisks, which functions to modulate the tone

and rhythm of the "water-swell" crescendo and prepare for what

Crane called "the climacteric vision of Columbus.'" Columbus

has come near to "Palos again,--a land cleared of long war,"

which was the starting point of his circular journey, and his

peace is matched by his freedom as 'Dark waters onward shake the

dark pro:w free." His return is heralded by an "Angelus" that

environs the cordage tree," and the imag, of the 'Angclus"'

suggests that the Annunciation of the birth of the word has been

made to Columbus, which of course it has, since it is this "word"

that he utters in his concluding hymn. The image also presents


a transformation of the earlier image of the 'palr~ chevron.," both

in the play on the "chcvron-environs. sound and in the sense of

the change from the tragic to the'joyful song of those 'ngelus."

The descent and death that were necessary to transform the initial

vision of Cathay into the word of the act of the im-agination

have led to thin song of imij.nent birth ascending round "the

cordage tree/' and "Ave Maria" moves into the final Te Deun.

Columbus's concluding hymnr is, on the literal level, a

To Dcum to God Himself, but several things indicate that the God

o: Columbus is best understood as the Imagination. First there

is the comment by Crane that he wrote "Ave Iia"ri in terms of

the cosmography, etc., of Columbus, as wcll as his acknowledge-

mont that the only absolute to which he ascribed w-as that of the

imagination. There is also the persistent imagistic association

of the God of Columbus with the Bridge of :Proenm and "Atlantis,"

which is the poem's symbol of the imagination. And, the use which

Crane mrkes of the Christicn tradition suggests that is the con-

cept of the Logos and the L'ord made Flesh, concepts which are

peculiarly suited to his belief in the absolute of'the imagination,

which are of major interest to him. So far from suggesting tliha

Christian dop.a is the substantive elementI of his poeem, Crane

actually presents Columbus moving t'.ir-cw. hl the for:-m and tcrr.s of

Christia'ity to a recognition of his more f:undco.eicntal! relationship

wit'ih the order of the punitive ian .'-' in. i, This is the order thr:

governs "kin gdom nroked in the trer.bling heartr" the realm to which

Col-w bu asscnts at the end of :"Ave I'aria.

The concluding section of '"Ave Maria" evinces a steady,

controlled rhythm, as befits the solemnity of a Te Deum, and in

this regard contrasts with the earlier description of the turbu-

lent, tumultuous sea. The section stands as a song in relation

to the first section of "Ave IMaria," and, as Crane noted in his

letter, is "later" in time, and "more absolute and marked," than

the first section. The agony of Columbus wrestling with the

ocean and himself for mastery of "the word" is done. Here Colum-

bus delivers a measured and harmonious prayer to the Word itself,

to the power which enabled him to give birth to his "word" of

discovery, and to the process by which he became empowered to

do so. Columbus recognizes not only the truth of his particu-

lar act of the imagination in calming the sea but also the truth

of the unitive nature of the imagination itself, the Logos that

is the source of all particular imaginative acts. This is

the ultimate revelation for the man of imagination, for it means

that he has discovered the true source of his being in a power

of which he parta.kes but which endures beyond his particular

acts. Thus the man of imagination recognizes, as Columbus here

does, "still one shore beyond desire."

The concluding section moves from a consideration of the

paradoxical nature of "Thou who sleepest on Thyself" and the

deity's relationship to man to the recognition of the power of

this deity in the world and in the universe itself. It ends

with a recognition of the unitive nature of all things in the

circle of "thy purpose." The deity of Colunbus, who "sleepost

on Thys.elf," is self-supporting and self-regEenrating. JHe is


cornmored to that third world "of water,' the ocean which is both

"apart" and "athuart lancs of death and birth." The reversal of

the usu3a progression froim birth to death in this phrase suggests

the process by which the man of imagination moves through death

to birth, as Coluj-ibus has just done, descending into the ocean

of his heart in order to ascend with the woord of Cathay. The

ocean is specifically associated with hunan life in the ij2age

of 'all the eddyi.ng breath between" these poles of death and

birth. The deity searches "Cruelly with love thy parable of

mnn" says Colurmbus, recognizing the paradoxical nature of the search

and its resolution in the punitive nature of maln's "parable,"

his bridge-like "breath between: the "lanes of death and birth."

Just as min is God's "pareble," Fis symbol of the union of

physical and spiritual in ColuvObus's "cosmography, so man's

oi.m creative act of imagination is his "parable," his symbolic

union of disparate, antithetical elements in the harmonious whole,

of the song or poem, the '"word." And it is this Logos aspect of

the deity which Columbus addresses: "Inquisitor. incogn.izable

Uord/of Eden and the enchained Sepulchre." This i.s the pa.radox

which Columbus iu.st recognize in God and in himself, the sec,'' -

contradiction between the God of creation and life and the God

of suffering and death, the central Inystcro of Chri.s!,tin traCdition.

The triadic .ov act frorn glory through ruin to restoration is

not only the process by '.-h'ich Christ redeccd the world but al3so

the process by which th"e x-an of iirrgination brings b;:c. Lis 'Kword..

*'->c inclusive Brid e is only ,'os;iblce ~Thcr t'c curve un(.olr h:,s 3

beon co '.ilA.ted, so the nrocc's c'cr'b>c a co 9l'te circle.


Crane suggested, by placing the quotation from Blak3 e as epigraph

to ".The Tunnel," "To Find the Western path, Right thro' the Gates

of Wrath," ho:. the man of imagination must proceed. The descent

and death of the "enchained Sepulchre" is a necessary part of

the restoration of "Eden." Hence Columbus ends this stanza

with an affirmation of that process: "Into thy steep savannahs,

burning blue,/Utter to loneliness the sail is true." The paradox

of this process is reflected in the "steep savannahs" and "burn-

ing blue," and the imagery recalls IJhitmanis description of the

voyage thatx is dangerous "but safe" as the navigator's blood

"burns" in his veins-.---suggesting as Crane himself does that

the voyage is an internal as well as external one. "Utter to

loneliness" recalls the "inmost sob, half-heard" of Columbus's

earlier voyage, and suggests that the act which calmed the sea

was a human act, efficacious without the intercession of divinity,

done in "loneliness." The act was for Columbus the evidence of

his experience of a recognition, as Crane said a poem should be,

and its effectiveness as 'significant articulation" is evident

in its harmonizing of the sea anid wind. It did not express any

philosophical truth, nor did it appeal through ritual fonrs or

terms to any God.. It is to this "loneliness," this absence of

direct evidence of God, that the "sail is true," and by implication

it is this "loneliness" which is the truth, a power within man

which he himself must bring to light. This is the significance

of' the contrast between the set forms ..of "Ave i'aria," "'ladre

Mariaa" and ':To Deum"il and the ultimate recognition of Columbus

tha it iis the ':kingdoms/nLaed in the/trembling hoar't" which are


finally the source of his success and his act of. imagination. The

moverAent of The Dridge i: s:inil.r to the movement of ':Ave iaria"

through such honorific teerns to the ex:istentiaJ. realities of

"heart"' and I'love" and '"nusic" as loci of the "truth" of the man

of imagination. Once Columbus has been divested of his honorific

role as discoverer of IAmerica and seen more existentiilly as a

man of imagination, the poet can begin to discover in himself

the same cfuality which Columbus discovers at the end of ',Ave

.?aria." Just as the gull of "Proem" built freedom by "shedding

white rings of tumult," so the poet proceeds through The Bridge

as Columbus proceeds through "Ave liaria," by assuming, living

in, and then shedding, sloughing off, different sckins, different

whitee rings of tumult,'" different states of consciousness, all (

in search of what Crmane called "the conquest of consciousness" (

by the organic imagination.

From the paradoxicalJ description of the nature of this

unseen power Columbus moves to a recognition of that powcr in

terms of nature, of the scientific knowledge of his tine, and

finally of a srynthesis of nature and science in the unit\ e

order of the ijma1tin;tion. The progression culminat:cs in the

"kindled Croam," the circle encompassing the .;-hole cosmos and

harm oniz:ng 1 :ll clements in its punitive vision, and then

settles into the rc-co 'ittion of the true source of the po-:r:

"Andf kingdor1sc:
ija od in uthc, .
'rcibl iJ".. ng e oar ".' --. **

The nove',ent of the :;;taa dc;rib-ng th ciK .enrc o. ti

in nature 'rococdc' front th(-; .tit ". ical [.,:r .(' t;on -. ''"

its .roe.olt.ion. por i tat Iich .n o


arguing the mast/Subscribest holocaust of ships," who destroys

and, ambiguously, "Subscribest," underwrites in some inscrutable

providential manner this "holocaust." It lies beneath as the

Word or Logos that provides an order, a raison d'etre oven for

death by fire. The power is the curving eye withinin whose primal

scan consummatcly/The glistening seignories of Ganges swim," an

image recalling the Bridge whose "unfractioned idiom" spanned

"all tides below," for here the "primal scan" encompasses the

whole earth, "this turning rondure whole" which Columbus's

vision accretcd-created on his voyage. This power not only

destroys but "sendest greeting by the corposant,/And Teneriffe's

garnet--flamed it in a cloud,/Urging through night our passage

to the Chain." The power, later named "Thou Hand of Fire," em-

ploys fire to purge, to destroy, but also to save, and the move-

ment from this death to resurrection by fire is reflected in the

movement from submergence to emergence, from sinking ships to

flaming clouds, in the stanza. Columbus himself is moving in

his speech from descent to ascent, and, as the paradoxical nature

of this power is resolved, to assent. The purgative nature of

fire, and the appearance of God-like power in a flame, recalls

the earlier mention of the prophet Isaiah and suggests that his

relevance to the process of resurrecting the wordc from a death

by fire stems from his imago in the Old Testament as the prophet

whose lips were cleansed by a burning coal sent from God. Columbus

resolves this description of a paradoxical power in the sam-e way

Isaiah did, by praising the purgation that leads to truth: "Te

Deou laudamr.s, for thy teeming span!" The "teeming span,"


associated by rhyme with the previous "primal scan,"' is more

explicitly a bridge that encompasses all "teeming" elements below,

and the use of the dynlamic "teeming" recalls the description in

"Proem:' of the Bridge as having "Some motion ever unspent in thy

stride." Both Jimrges suggest the active nature of the Bridge,

the v iality of the "organic constructt' that embodies the truth

of the iegination or, for Columbus, the truth of the Word.

From this description of the power whose uprimal scan"

encompasses all space Columbus moves to a consideration of the

"amplitude that tine explores," the enduring quality of the power

everpresent, "The orbic wa-ke of thy once whirling feet." The

science of navigation, through the instrument of the compass,

depends on this power as much as does the natural phenomena of

fire mad rivers. And the compass emulatles the process of birth

through death, of affirmation through negation, for it is IA

needle in the sight, suspended north, --/Yielding by inCerence

and discard, faith/And true appointment from the hidden sho.alc .

Through "inCerence and discard" comes ':true appointment,' and it

is this stripping, purging quality, this finding of position by

"disposition," that characterizes the assimilating, integrain

action of the inmin'tion. Like the deuss abscond-itus, the god

of fire and whirlwinds that Columbus addresses, it can only be

kno.n by its effects, its, signs, just as the 'parable"' rrnst be

kno-wnm through indirection. The stanza concludes with Coli -ous' s

affirn-tion of the power he cannot see:

This disposition th't thty ;'i rclaos
From ooXn to atun in one sr re uho e.
The orb:ic u-;'ke of th;. once whirl. foot,
E]o in, still I hear thy ;ordn: hol.



The entire universe is united in the circle of "one sapphire

wheel," which is "the orbic wake," the residue of a dance of

"thy once whirling feet." That the act of the Logos, the

creation of the universe, should be imaged as a dance not only

suggests Crane's appropriate use of the Renaissance notion of

the cosmic dance but also initiates a motif of creation imaged

as a dance or music which persists throughout the poem: in

"The Dance," the epigraph to "Atlantis," and the image of the

Bridge as "harp," among other places. The dance symbolizes the

punitive act, as here it symbolizes the ordering act of the Logos.

Further, this act integrates, embodies, both dancer and dance,

as Columbus declares, "ELohim, still I hear thy sounding heell"

The symbol of the unitive truth, the absolute of the imagination

rendered in an act, a dance, is the circle, for the act itself

is one of drawing within the circle's scope or "scan" or "span"

al diverse elements, as the whirlwind fuses all in its motion.

This affirmation of the unitive nature of the universe is

followed by a steady, triumphant description of the power of the

imagination in the present raising day out of night. It is the

assent of Columbus to the truth of the imagination's. punitive

and regenerative nature, and it leads him through an assent to

the punitive nature of the cosmos to a recognition of the existence

of that same power within himself. The unitive labor of the

universe is imaged in a manner that recalls the gull of "Proem::

White toil of heaverns cordons, mustering
In holy rings all sails charged to the far
Hushed gleaming fields and pendant seething wheat
Of knowledge,--round thy brous unhooded now
--The kindlcd Crown.


The unitive nature of the universe musters "all sails,' supports

and "subscribes" them in their voyage to 'knowledge," urges

them on to "new sniri:tual articulations." The constructive

act is associated with the organic growth cycle of "fields" and

"seething wheat," the organic nature that draws its energies

from the szame source that musters the 'sails" of the voyaging

men of imagination. The image recalls that of the Bridge

"Vaulting the sea, the prairies' dreaming sod,' and similarly

suggests the punitive nature of the imagination, the truth of

Yeats' statement that "the laws of the imagination are the

laws of the universe"' ; as well as the concoyita,"-nce of ;-:"l.lh

and decay. The "k:indlod Cronm" is the symbolic circle that signals

the absolute of the iml.gination, here for Coluibus the absolute

of Christ the King of the World, the iobrd risen in glory. This

final resurrection continues the motion of the orbic earth, for

"acceded of the poles/And bipssed by full sails, meridians reel/

Thy purpose," The im ae of the movement "acceded of the polcs':

suggests th ththe parable, the parabola of the earih, has been

released, sent spinning, given, as Crane hoped he could give his

poems, "a.n orbit or predetc mined direction of its o'..m." The

':ovocat.ion'" of this "kindled Croun:' and the earth it. sends

sp.innng is for Colunbus hatc Crane hoced his poe-:s would be for

his readers, a bridge toward -a state of consciousness.'' Ti

new state of consciousness for Coluhmbus is the recognition of'

his own narL in the unitive n'turo of the universe and of tho

law8s of thel i,;-. 'ir';.:tion ocriLive within hi''.. Thus the poL i

concluded' with Co l. :'ir .. .. still one S-ore bCvo- 1


desire" and other "kingdoms naked in the trembling heart" of

which he must still bring back the word, bring into the light

of the "kindled Crown." For this recognition he praises the

source of the purgative fire and the punitive vision, the love-

driven imagination itself, "0 Thou Hand of Fire." Thus Colum-

bus comes at the end of "Ave Maria" to the same recognition

that the poet came to at the end of "Proem," namely the recog-

nition of the power of the imagination itself that lies beneath

and informs all particular acts of imagination, all particular

bridges. He comes to realize the regenerative life of the

imagination in himself. The use of the circle to symbol:i.e the

process by which the imagination unifies all elements within its

"primal scan," and by which it begets itself out of itself, leads

to the next section of The Bridge. There the journey is imaged

in the epigraph as a turning of cartwheels at the command of

Pocahontas, the symbol of the "body of the continent" which Colun-

bus has just discovered and which the poet must now explore.


Writing to Otto Kahn about the first section of "Powhatan's

Daughter" Cranc noted that "this legato, in which images blur as

objects only half apprehended on the border of sleep and conscious-

ness, makes an admirable transition between the intervening cen-

turies." The contrast between the triumphant concluding hymn

of "Ave Maria" and the smoothly modulated rhythm and even tonality

of "The Harbor Dawn" serves several structural functions. Most

importantly, the legato is a bridge between the climactericc"

vision of Columbus, a conclusion, and a new beginning heralded

by the waking of the poet himself into consciousness. The "border

of sleep and consciousness," the "waking dream" of the poet, is

exactly the psychic locale of those dumb but urgent "new conditions

of life" which give impetus to "new spiritual articulations."2

Objects "only half apprehended" mark this cynesthetic interpcnc-

tration of water and land, this passage from the ocean of Columbus

to the body of Pocahontas, as "The FIrbor Dawn" renders the form-

less but potentially harmonious element0 which tb7 poet's imagination

must work with. The imagery of gestation, dor. nri3nt in this

section, suggests the state of the poet's consciousness in this

first section of "Powhatan's Daughter." And the dawn begins a

movement th-ough one dey in which the poet, via dream and memory,

explores his American heritae, recover ring it in itcrn of the

present, inte ratiLg it into his living ir: gination until he



can carry it "home across the Bridge' ("Cutty Sark"), and finally

into the radiant light of Atlantis.

An examination of "The Harbor Da.mw" reveals its structural

parallels with "Ave Maria," always, of course, "under modifications

of environment, etc." In "The Harbor Dawn" the poet is between

sleep and consciousness, as "a tide of voices--/. .. meet you

listening midway in your dream." In this "waking dream," this

midwaya" point, he resembles Columbus floating "between two

worlds"; and, indeed, the poet'S state is imaged as a watery

"pillowed bay" where voices come in a "tide." The similarity

continues in terms of action, for as Columbus moved from his mid-

way point to a union of the poles by an act of creation-accretion

of "this turning rondure whole," so here the poet meets Pocahon-

tas in his "waking dream" and engenders a movement toward a new

"spiritual articulation," symbolized by the freeing of "The sun,

released--aloft with cold gulls hither." This sun is not the

full-blomw "turning rondure whole" of Columbus, but rather an

impetus to further action, to the pursuit of Pocahontas and the

total union with her in "The Dance." The sun functions as the

gull in "Proem," with which it is linked, as a sign of natural

vitality. And where in "Ave Maria" the symbolic circle of the

earth prepared for the song of praise, here the "released sun

urges the poet on toward his unitive act of "The Dance."

Other parallels between the two sections serve to forge

a continuity within the poem. The quest motif of Columbus is

continued here in the subtle allusions to Ulysses and his odyssey,

specifically in the images of the sirensn" and the "Cyclopean


towers across Manhattan waters" and "The sun, released." This

submerged metaphor of the quest, which links the poet and the

poetic process with the quest-hero and the quest-process, cul-

minates in the explicit reference to Jason and the Argonauts in

the "Atlantis" section, and provides just one of the multiple

dimensions which Crane fuses in The Bridge. The imagination's

power, imaged at the end of "Ave Maria" as a "Hand of Fire,"

becomes here a hand of sleep and dream which begins the shaping

process. Appropriately for this initial section of "Powhatan's

Daughter," which Crane compared to "the sowing of the seed,"

the hands are those of lovers in mutual embrace, where "your

hands within my hands are deeds," of both trust and action, whose

effects are not immediately known. The image of the hand as

maker, shaper, creator, suggests the creative activity of the

imagination; and in "The Harbor Da.mn" the hands suggest the

first coupling of materials, the prelude to creation.

The element of love which accompanies this creative union

recalls the function of the Virgin in "Ave Maria," the source

and object of that "inmost sob, half-heard" by which Columbus

"merges the wind in measure to the waves." In a letter Crane

discussed this love-motif:

The love motif (in italics) carries
along a symbolism of the life and ages
of man (here the sowing of the seed)
which Is furhth-r developed in each of
the subsequent sections of "Powhatan's
Daughter," tho igh it is never partic-
ularly stressed. Ini 2 ("Van W-inkle")
it is childhooD; in 3 it is Youth; in
4, Manhood; in 5 it is Age. This
motif is interwoven and tends to be
implicit in th.- i.- ry rath r than
anywhere stre-sed.


In both "Ave na.ri; and 'The Harbor Dawn" this l.ove-motif extends

not only to the human but to the natural as well: the sowing

of the seed is prepared for by a similar imaging of conception

in terms of the natural world. The fog on the harbor is a "blank-

ness," and "SomeiThere out there. . steam/Spills into steam,

and wanders, washed awcy/--Flurried by keen fifings, eddied/Among

distant chiming buoys--adrift." The random union of steam spilling

into steamr, the funereal associations of the accompanying "keen

fifings," suggest the unproductive and hence foredoomed motions

of natural energy unconverted by the act of the imagination. The

image recalls the "bewilderment" of Columbus before his act of

imagination, and prepares for the passionate flow of the River

which precedes the act of the imagination in "The Dance." The

conversion of natural energy into the imagination's artifact must

cone about in conjunction with love: just as Columbus appeals

to the Virgin, so here the poet merges with Pocahontas to order

the chaos of unshaped nature, to form the "i:u-ic" which is "the

knowledge of that which relates to love in hamnony and systemin

("Atlantis"). Thus one task of the unitive imagination is to

turn the vital energy of nature to human, imaginative purposes,

to move beyond the gull to the Bridge. In "The IHarbor Dawnr

this movement is from the harbor to the poet's room, where the

fruitful merger of lovers occurs.

That purpose is one aspect of the act of the imagination

is evident from the transformaaion of the steam that editedd /

Among distant chi.niig buoy ,s-.-;drift" through a process of dis-

tillation into the dam'n which the eyes of Pocahontas "drink:


while "a forest shudders in your bair.!", an obvious in~age of

sexual consul:.nation. A marked similarity between the image o:

stea n unndering "Among diLstant clhiming buoys" and that of Colum-

bus wandering ';between t.:o worlds" as the eddying breath"

between "lanes of death nd birth" further e-nhasizes the

Cranian definition of man as a "parable." The act proper to

the :in~oin-aion is the distillation and reproduction in hurman

and potent form, like the sperm of the poet-lover here, of the

abundant natural energies in a poem that can cabody the imagination's

truth and lead to "new spiritual articulations." Here the dis-

tillation of the harbor fog by the "sky/Cool feathery fold"

results in the symbolic birth of the sun which the poet .ust

follow- through and beyond its circuit to recover his lover

Pocah ontas and possess the Indian culture and erica'ss past.

For this beginning of the circular journey, as for the beginning

of the journey that results from the completion of the Bridgce in

"Atla.ntis," the poet knous that "love strikes clear direction-

for the helm."

"The Harbor Dan.m" concludes as i.d "Ave Ilarie," in-th the

suggestion of: beinning rather than finality, with an ir cetus

onward; thus .it crulates the life of the !in-ination, which is

always moving, even when it scnes to have successfully c.. : :Leted

an action. That a conception has occurred is s--ctested both in

the description of the lovers 'union and the subtler i:n!oe cf t'"e

"mnistletoe of drna-nI ,"' which recalls the Christn.rl~ ser;o;i, the

',bcd 'iiote," and a'iotb:er I.~ncI.i on. The :-- of :: 'ill one

shore beyond co'siro1 wuich concluded 1j"Avo .r.i r is hero ec '(oed

in the disappearance of the star, "As though to join us at some

distant hill," which "Turns in the waking west and goes to slecp."

The woman of the poelts (.reeri has vanished, but there is the pro-

mnise of her future appearance if the poet can move through time

and space, and it is vrith a certain confidence that he proceeds

toward the star and distartr hill in 'The Dance."

"Van .inkle,: the second section of 'Fo;h-tan's Daugh.tr,

continues the movement backward in tire nd wes-tward in space

begun in "The Harbor Dainm" end continues as well the subtle but

definite gro-bth o:f the poet's life and the "agos of rimn through

childhood. Cran explained the action of this section in a

letter to ..aldo Frank:

The protagonist has left the roon
w,.ith its harbor sounds, and is walk-
ing to the s-ub:y. The rhTrbl-h is
quickened; it is a transition between
sleep and the in:manent (sic) tasl:s
of the rday. Space is filled .with
the nmisic oof a hand orgacn and fresh
sunligLh, and one has the i-6prcssion
of the whole continent--fromn Atlantic
to a.cific-.-fireshly arisen cndr moving.
The walk: to the sub-u- arouses re.i-
nisccnces of chilt~ood(, also the
"childhood" of the continental con.-
quest, vi.., the conquist-adorcs,
Priscilla, C,-pt. John S:iith, etc,
The,:c paalleli:is unite in the
figure o finally beco:ms identified elith
the protagonist, as you w.ill notice,
and who really boards the subw n.-'
wlith the racdcr. ITe becones the
"g. rdiiu ancl" of the journey
into thb pant.l

The ,tw-o .'ove:.Iet1si, the descent of the poet into the past of the

continent and the ascent of .the poet fro:'. b:iMrh through childhoo

.nd youthi to .anh.ood, appear antagonistic rather thb .n parallel.

13u. the e -lo-a.ion of the .,er.'i.c-n pr.st is s:l-1-ta oo; ::iIb a

rec:cbran.ec of the po' o-,n pS', and bot-h novc.;st 'in for 'an

VAT1.T I.:L L, L;


integration of experience in terms of the poet's present conscious-

ness. This integration comes from the unitive act of "The Dance,"

where the poet not only recovers the Indian culture in its mythic

entirety but also undergoes a symbolic sexual encounter that

initiates him into Manhood. He learns on both levels the power

and limitations of the passions, and thus prepares for his

exploration of the continent's spirit in the second half of

The Bridge.

In "Van Winkle" the importance of time is evident in the

title itself, which invokes the American legend of the man who

slept for twenty years, wakening to find himself "not here/nor

there." As Crane noted in a letter, Van Winkle functions as

Dante's Vergil, a "guardian angel" to lead the descent into the

past. The past of continent and childhood is here connected by

the fact that as a schoolchild the poet "walked with Pizarro

in a copybook,/And Cortes rode up, reining tautly in." The

breakdown of chronological time and temporal suspense which

characterized "The Harbor Dawn" is continued here, as "space is

filled with music" and the poet perambulates the surface of land

and "copybook" memory on "gold arpeggios," preparing to descend

into "blood memory." "Van Winkle" evinces circular form, beginning

and ending with the same stanza. And the interspersion of itali-

cized stanzas of nusery-rhyme rhythm maintains the force of the

poet's initial injunction to "Listen' the miles a hurdy-gurdy

grinds--/Down gold a~.-..i, Jos mile on mile unwinds." The cine-

matic unwinding of "mile on mile" and image after image appeals

to the surface consciousness, defeating efforts to abstract meaning


or deep significance, and thus aptly renders the imagination's

activity at this stage of the poet's progress. He is not recre-

ating or reordering materials, but rather allowing them to flit

across the surface of consciousness, the "copybook" of rote memory.

"Van Winkle" specifically links music with the associational pro-

cesses of memory, as the hurdy-gurdy encourages "memory, that

strikes a rhyme out of a box,/Or splits a random smell of flowers

through glass." This activity allows the poet to emulate Van

Winkle's movement out of time, becoming "time's truant" as

"The grind-organ says. . Remember, remember."

The initial image of "Van Winkle" is one of transformation

as well as transition, and thereby sets the pattern for the rest

of this section: "Macadam, gun-grey as the tunny's belt,/Leaps

from Far Rocka.way to Golden Gate." The image of macadam spanning

the continent in one leap recalls the description of the Bridge

"Vaulting the sea, the prairies' dreaming sod" in "Proem," and

continues the connecting of past and present, East and West,

which is the goal of "Powhatan's Daughter." But this bridge of

macadam involves more than a mere transition from "Far Rockaway

to Goden Gate," as, indeed, the Bridge itself involves more than

motion; the connective Bridge, the "organic construction" of the

highway "gun-grey as the tunny's belt," involves the integration

and transformation of nature and machine, the vital and the

mechanical, in the life of the imagination. Here the imagistic

union cf the natural and the mechanical reflects this integration.

But also suggested is the fact that the leepin g rmcaoom is the result

as well as the cr .odim.nt of the transforming life- .nccss of the


imagination. Connections are generated out of the tension of the

integrative process of the imagination, and a certain amount of

destruction is necessary for creation of the 'parable of man."

The necessity of death, of destruction through integration, for

creation is here implied in the image of the tunny' s "gun-grey..

belt." The movement from the sea of "The Harbor Dawm" to the land

of "Van W inkle" is ira.ged as a shifting of energy, the trans-

formation of the fish's grey belt into the macadam over -frhich

the poet trill move through the land, and this transformation

involves the integration, hence destruction, of the sea life.

The living and "leaping" bridge of macadam that results from

this transformation of energy is one of the poem's many synec-

doches of the Bridge itself, and the process of life proceeding

from death via the connective experience is synecdoche of the

process by which the punitive imagination lives and moves.

The theme of transformation established in this initial

image of "Van Winkle" continues throughout. Past and present

time blend in the reverie evoked by the hurcdy-gurdy music, and

the poet remembers "Tiimes earlier, when you hurried off to

school,/It is the same hour though a later day." The standard

of time here is the circuit of' the. sun'through .one dayl,.not the

linear abstraction of historical time, for the connection betw-,een

present and past depends on the recognition of time as "the same

hour though a later day." The use of a point on the sun's cir-

cuit rather than a point on the mind's line insures that past

and present can merge, and emiphasizes the circular and regenerative

r-naurc of the i.' .-ic-i-on's life, whose time perception resembles


that ancient spynbol of the snake eating its tail, turning in a

never-endingr (or 'l.cirIng) circle. For the inarinition tibnc is

an eternal Jow, and the im: -ination lives in an 'Everpresonce,

beyond tine."' ("iintlntis") Van inkle, of course, is a perfect

symbol for this st ,'., of the poet's life, for he has soon urban

Broadway trans.,fore.o fro:n a "Catskill dctis chain in Iay."

The tronsforn-rtion of fleeting rertiiniscences of the poet's

past into najor symbols of experience later in The Bridge provides

another e:xemle of the iJia:gination's rc;enerative process. The

stoning of "young/Grtor snk:es under. . And the monoploncs/.Je

lamuched--T.ith papor ings and tristed./Ru.bbor bands,'" both cryptic

shorthCnds of confer here, are, in :The 1River" and ;Cape ITattoras," (

transforn.cd into nijor 'r.ibols of experience. Sinilarly, the poet's

nenory of "the uhip stripped front the lilac tree/One cday in spring

m y father took to neo" and of ':the Sabbotical, unconscious siileo/

,sy mother alm-ost brought me once fron church/A-nd once only, as

I recall" are nietaiorphioscd fo:is of the su.ferinc eand death (in

the "wh.ip" of lilac:') and liberation through love (the ,Sabbai..

col,1' hence liberating, ';unconscious sril.e":) which are clecants

integerl to the creative act of :ir:mrinati.on. Thie r vansccnt

srnile, cspeci-!lly, reminds us that the poet' childhood is nro-
L Us z ) oc-'U, ch-.].1-ood is -mire.-

deccied at this stace of the journey, but that Love (reca.. the

lover of "'t- .. arbor Da'n ) is bothl cource a.1nd goaK. of t"he

irn ination- life in T91c r'i- e-- and ca.--,l of, li-or~ :nw .he

poet into creative act.on. is if scnnin this the no-t (nc : .fud

.'h Va.
uncer his ar, CT:( dc *ccn:; to to r th', :.L c:- ]::.0i; to

the Pivcr nAd be;.- ', into tbh ".. :mic c i .: 1 c rEal fc "'.'-


In "The River: the poet moves beyond the rr.iniscences of

his end the nation's childhood to a fuller exploration of the

body of the continent and his oi-m youth. The poet is led on-

wards by his quest for Pocahontas end the liberating love she

symbolizes; and he journeys by train to the 1-ississippi River,

then descends to the Gulf. The River is, as Crane called it,

"a great River of Time," and its thrust, its passion, is for a

release from time into eternity. This is its dreamm" and it is

similar to the poet's owm 1;dreamn of act." The dominant value

of "The River," suggested in the energetic rhythms and the

imagery, is passion; and the act of "The River" is the poet's

movement through passion to the myrthic land of "The Dance.'

The allusions to the Passion and Atonement of Jesus clustered

at the end of "The River," where the flow dies in the Gulf, suggest

an enalogy for the movement out of time. In Christian tradition

the Passion end Death of Jesus are necessary preludes to the

Resurrection and entrance into the Kingdom of Cod. The Atone-

ment :fses past, present, and future in one moment, and prepares

for tine's roedemrtion and Christ's Resurrection. The exhaustion

of natural energies in death prepares for entrance into the

spiritual, as in The B ridge the death of the River and its natural

energics leads the poet into a :r.'ilc state. There his resurrected



body can know Pocahontas "truly," and thercby truly know- itself.

"The liver," then, renders the fusion of mechanical and organic

motions, passions, in the 'grcat River of Time," and renders the

elxhaustion of tine' passion, and passion itself, in the Gulf.

'The creative act of time anpears first then as a death of

tine itself.'.

The structure of "The Rivero' is tripartite. The three

divisions deal tith, respectively, the machine and mnchanlical

rhy.thn s, the organic and the diurnal and seasonal rhythmis of

nature, and, finally, the integration and harionization of these

opposites in the "great River of Tine" itself, which is _inaGod

as the final measure of the nechi'nicPl aInd organic tributarioS.

The fornal aspects of the poetry of these three sections reflects

their function in relation to the attemr)t of the imagination to

uni.yr and harmonlzc then. The "telegraphic night" of the mn.chine

is rendered in an incantatory series of jumbled iimages and broken

phrases, whrt Crane called "the strident impressionn of a fast

e:;press rushing bry.":2 The wanidering; of the tramps across the

country, and of the poet through his recollections of youth, is

rendered in "a steady pedestrian gcit." The fin,- section;, I;bore

train and t mra~mps ergo with the River, is charectorized by a

poetry: of convoluted rhythli.s, a l-'nac.ge thicl;cned w-ith uns

acd paradox that c~ laTtes the River as it "flo.s -ithin i tel.',

until finally the PJ.vor (and the r)oc-try) -spreads in -vid tonic,

choked and slo.," as it neets the Gulf, ~ith t.hosann.r silcnt.ly

below:.' Tlhis :fin;.1 suffc:ring is '0 Par'.,':Lso 'c:~ :x"ezod fro: i t .

.ivor1 effIort; to ite a Toni' in ':.it' onC Ui'!ll" tl'c


conflicting rhythms that feed it; and that one will is to "flow,"

to live and move beyond its fatal union with the "Gulf."

Various themes and motifs are clustered around this tri-

partite structure, and they flesh out the "parable of men"' which

the structure reflects, the Bridge that is "one arc synoptic

of all tides below" ("Atlantis'). The machine is associated with

all the accoutrements of the rational mentality: abstractions,

such as clocks and the printed word, an urge to power through

dominance rather than assimilation or loving union, a predispo-

sition to logical reflection rather than intuitive feeling. The

organic is associated rith the body and the body's vitality, with

Pocahontas herself, the body of the continent, who exists "beyond

the print that bound her name." Neither machine nor land, urban

nor pastoral, man nor woman, are in isolation self-sustaining or

reduplicating; hence, though seeming opposites, they depend on

one another for their o:wn generation and regeneration, and this

relationship, this antagonism, can only be reconciled through a

third party or third principle, a bridge. In order that the poet

may posit and act on the imagination's "Everprcsence," he first

destroys the segregative assumptions about time and space that

threaten it. The purpose of this destruction of absolute, or

classical, time in "The River" is similar to the purpose of the

destruction of absolute space in "Cape Hatteras," and of absolute

si.:multancity throughout the poem. As Crane knew and felt, the

classical rationalist framework that supported these assumptions

had been seriously questioned by the forxmrulation of the Relativity

Principle (if not by something more mundane, hence poetic, like


the cinema or the light bulb). Hence he images the failure of

reason and passion to achieve in isolation the unitive truth which

he seeks, and then posits the imagination as the human faculty

emulative of and capable of attaining to the love that is the

foundation of his universe, the source and end of "spiritual


."The River" opens with the "telegraphic night" of the

subway-express train speeding across the country, a movement west-

ward in space and backward in time which continues the descent

motif that concluded "Van Winkle." The journey across the

continent in "The River" follows this pattern of descent, for the

train joins the Mississippi River and the poet follows the flow

"Down, down" into the Gulf. In a letter on this section, Crane


the subway is simply a figurative,
psychological "vehicle" for trans-
porting the reader to the Middle
West. He lands on the railroad
tracks in the company of several
tramps in the twilight. The ex-
travagance of the first twenty-
three lines of this section is an
intentional burlesque on the
cultural confusion of the present--
a great conglomeraLion of noises
analogous to the strident im-
pression of a fast express rushing
by. The rhythm is jazz.

The "telegraphic night" that introduces "The River" represents a

powerful shift from "Van Winkle," where "space is filled with the

music of a hand organ and fresh sunlight" and the urban and pastoral

motifs intermingle in the figure of Van Winkle, for in this express.-

train confusion, spce scnp through "windco'n''s flashing roar"' anc


the "EXpress makes time like/SCIEbCE" in this exercise of the

Faustian demiurge that subverts and parodies the pastoral "as

you like it. eh?" The process of mental abstraction associated

with science is subtly caught in the "EXpress" and "TSE HAVE THE


OR EVEN RUI3Ihing brooks connecting cars." Here objects are proper

nouns dissociated from all material attachments, murderously

"breathtaking" rather than inspiring. The threat to the unitive

imagination is suggested in the ironic exclamation at science's

achievements: "can you/imagine." The music of "Van LWinkle"

that urged the poet to "remember" has become a cacophony of dis-

memberment. A "brother" is just a "patent name on a signboard,"

another example of the extreme isolation of word and thing, mind

and bocLy, which the Faustian mentality of "Thomas/a Ediford::

substitutes for the integrating act of the imagination. And.the

mechanical repetition of disjointed images never unified recalls

the "panoramic sleights" of the "flashing scene,/ilever disclosed"

which drove the bedlamite to the Bridge in "Proem." The association

of synthetic words, "Tintex--Japalac--Certain-teed Overalls," 'with

the product-oriented methodology of "SCIEN CE--COI-.ERCE" further

suggests the muind-miaing habits of a society thab has forgotten,

perhaps fatally, the organic processes of the punitive imagination.

Here the Faustimn urge isolates and dismembers the developing

vorld of The Bridge, setting the machine against nature and the

vitality of ma hJimself. The shining "multitudinous Verb"' of the

Bridge seems irrevocably fragmented in this "telegraphic ni.ghIt."

This failure of the "T'entieth Ccntury Limited," science's


supreme fiction, to satisfy man is imaged as the failure to "feed"

him, a metaphor of the act of nourishing the imagination throughout

the poem. Here the train "roared by and left/three men, still

hungry on the tracks," the hoboes, pariahs of the machine-age

who roam the land by rail. The metaphor of feeding suggests

the assimilative progress of the imagination, its movement via

incorporation and recreation into its own "living stuff." Here

it is finally the River itself that swallows the "trainmen" and

hoboes who "feed it timelessly," as passion attempts to recreate

itself out of time.

The death by drowning of Dan Midland, and the assimilation

of the trainmen by the River, reveal not only the self-destructive

aspects of the Faustian urge in extremist but also, paradoxically,

the salutary effects of such a destruction, and explains further

the function of the "telegraphic nighb." Writing of "The River"

Crane explained its movement:

The reader is gr u.ally led back in
time to the pure savage world, while
existing at the same time in the
present. It has been a very com-
plicated thing to do, and I think
I have worked harder on this section
of The Bridge than on any other.

The movement backward in time to the "pure" Indian world is paral-

leled by a movement through time and time's passion to the ever-

present imagination. The essential movement is the one throuSgh

states of mind, as "The River" renders the movement though reason

and passion into the real of the mythic iimagina atlon. Thus the pro-

cess of descent and death via assimiltion th.t ours in "The Rivor"

prepares for tbc a ccenu to their soI:ce o the Appal chi-n Spring"


in "The Dance." The 'otelcgraphic night," then, renders the

destructive aspects of the abstracting mind that arc later

assimilated, via the drowning of Dan Midl.cand, into the flow of

the River toward realization of its dreammn" This defeat of the

Faustian ,will to power is a necessary prelude to the act of

creation, for it renders the poet's recognition of the "Limited"

possibilities of the mind in isolation from love, and lends

impetus to further exploration of the "'body of the continent"

and his onm psychic regions.

In a letter Crane linked the hoboes of the second part of

"The. River" with the early pioneers moving into "interior after

interior: toward the "pure savage world" of the Indians:

The rhythm settles down to a steady
pedestrian grit, like that of wan-
derers plodding along. I't tramps
are psychological vehicles also.
Their wanderings as you will notice,
carry the reader into interior
after interior, finally to the great
River. 'They are the left-overs of
the pioneers in at least this res-
pect--that their wanderings carry
the reader through an c;perience
parallel to that of Doone and
others. I think. I have caught
some of the spirit of the Great
Valley here.

This simple nature, significantly, exists "under a world of whistles,

wires and steam," beneath the modern "Iron M.ountain" which science

and commerce have const ructed. The poet is searching through the

land of the continent and his own recollections of a time when

both he a-nd the hoboes were "holding to childhood like some term-

less pla:' for the repossession of PocJaontas, the lover who

vanished i.th his dream in :i"The Larbor Dawn." And in this second

parb of ':The 1ye.vr": he experiences and moves through the :'Strange


bird-:wit, like the clemental gist/Of unual.ed ,rindsi" wliich the

hoboes "offer," a type of k:nouleccge in which '"Tine's rendings,

ti-Lm 's blen:dings" are constraud "As final reckonings of fire and

sno.-;."' This cscribing of change to the elemental forces, in a

passive, even fa.ta.i..stic fashion that sets the uncalledd .rinds'

above any hl-n control, is not the philosophy of the poet uho,

in ".'tlcntis,' compares himself to '"Jason. .. Still wrapping

harness to the s -a Jming cir!." !'or, of course, is it the rnrder-

ously: "breath't.ajing dc:,ination of man by a machine that leaves

himra still hmung-r on the tracks-' in the ';telcgraphic night."'

Bu.t, tli.s natural philosophy, or, this 'ratio of fa.ct and c:-

perience," is a stage through Uhich the poet must pass, a skin

he nust inhbi.t and cast off, in order to reach the truth of

the imagination.

'ec contrast b 'tw:een the scient.i:[fic cnd organic in tcnrrs of

their methods of measuring time is presented in the first stan!,wa

of: this second section:

K1en instruments, strung ,to a vast precision
kind tou;n to tc;.'n and dre:a to ticking droat.
But sorio renn tiko "their liuor slcw--and count
--'-'.nou'h they ll confcs:1 no rosary nor clue--
The river's ni.Tnutc by e bb rook s year.

The difference between t:ime as nathenat..ica1 abstraction frori

natural notion ?nd ti:i.e ar accumul '.icn cand growth is obvious here;

but .wh,.t is more im-ortbnt in ters of the pocn itself is the fact

that.' thi.u orgcaic rmeiauar of .ti.. is, like the ho)bocs, closer to

the process of. ass;iilation .nd integration vhich is the lao: of

the poet's :iigin:r,';on. '"Ie ri.nd a;'strac. s fri the chan : of the

un.ivecrse .its conce:-t of ti-'c, id in. so doing re:iovs c. :en


process from the growth and vitality that support the mind itself.

Life, and man, then become products of the mind's abstractions,

rather than processes, and art must be a product too. The punitive

vision, generated by the integrative and creative action of the

imagination, depends on the recognition of life as process and

warm vitality. Elsewhere in The Bridge the loss of vision is

imaged as a freezing or killing, as with the sailor of "Cutty

Sark" who lost his sight and sense of time as process in that

"damned white Arctic." The affinity of the organic process of

measuring time with the imaginative process is suggested in the

image of the "rosary," where the series of prayers begins and

ends with the crucifix, symbol of the unitive Atonement of

Christ. This reflects the fact that the descent through the mind

to the body is a movement toward the unitive truth of the imagination


The hoboes are closer to Pocahontas because in their re-

pudiation of mechanical civilization for the life of the wanderer

"they touch something like a key perhaps," for "they know a body

under the wide rain." The body is Pocahontas, symbol of the land

of the red, white and blue U. S. A., "Snow-silvered, .sumac-stained

or smoky blue.'" They are wifelesss or runaway," .which suggests

their isolation and failure to achieve a unitive relationship with

that "love" that is necessary for musicc : and the act of imagination;

and their isolation suggests, conversely, the relevance of the

poet's search for Pocahontas and his pursuit of the punitive vision.

The "Hobo-trekkers" are "Possessed, resigned," to the necessity

that they 'forever search/An empire wilderness of freight and


rails"' for the "yonder breast" of Pocahontas, but at lIeast they

know that she lives "past the valley-sleepers, south or west,"

beyond their dreams of her; and their wandering pays homage to

their willingness to seek beyond the known and settled, as did

the pioneers, for the Wo o .-n or experience that will fulfill

their longing for a sense of cormleteness. Similarly, the

poet expresses his own unitive urge as a force that moves him

",past the circuit of the lamp's thin flame," where he has "dreamed

beyond the print that bound her name." He, too, is on the move

in "Powhatan's Daughter," wheeling, as the epigraph suggests, all

the land over because Pocahontas (Love) has so decreed' The

movencnt through circle after circle of "the lamp's thin flane'

recalls the image of the gull 'shedding white rings of tumult"

in its flight, to suggest the metamorphic development of the

poem. The poet is even closer to Pocahontas than the hoboes,

for where they knew her "without narme" he has ":dreamed beyond

the print that bound her nmec' in his desire for union. The

hoboes are ignorant of whom they seek, of her :name, and hence

can never totally identify with her. The poet's dream "beyond

the print'! is a counterpart of the "parable of rmn," a bending

of the lincar series of print to-ward a parabolic union beyondnnd'

and prepares subtly for the destruction of linear tirie that

occurs at the end of "The River." The poet recognizes as :Doadt

echoes' the :copyL. -).-. possession of history by meMory, .nd

repudiates the mental possession of the past by %rprin; -in his

recorci-. of redskinn drn;-stis thri fled lh br:ain. T he full.

in por' of 'brain', is seen when in '"The DaTnc' the a.rgin rnbcI

indicate that the true knowledge o: pocahontas comes through

"blood remembering"' rather than this ineffectual :"brain" re-

membering, another of the mind-body contrasts that mark "The

River." The "Dead echoes': from the copybook of childhood

must be sloughed off in this search for the symbol of the

love necessary for the act of imagination that puts "The

serpent with the eagle in the leaves" of the poem itself, that

incorporates the poet's experience of the body into his living


The contrast between the mythical Indian world which the

poet must possess and the mechanical world of the present which

the poet hopes to redeem through a marriage of Faustus and Helen

in the Bridge is imaged in the next stanza, which is both a

snumnary of the antagonisms and a preparation for their assimi-

lation in the descent of the River into the Gulf. The "old gods

of the rain lie wrapped in pools. .. Under the Ozarks, domed by

Iron Mountain," attended by "eyeless fish" who mu.st curvett a

sunken fountain: to "re-descend with corn from querulous crows."

The imprisoning "Iron Mountain," a spatial parody of the Bridge

that domes and, by a pun, "dooms": the "old gods" to an "eyeless~

existence is associated with the "iron dealt cleavage" that science

and the machine have wrought, separating present from past, mind

from body. The image of the sunken fountain not only suggests

the containment of the imagination but also prepares for the poet's

return to the source of the "Appalachian Spring" in "The Dance,"

a return necessary to the possession of the "old gods" and their

myth in terms of his present living imagination.

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