Posts filed under ‘Hart Crane’

Proem: To Brooklyn Bridge

Hart Crane

Listen  (to Hoon read)

How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest
The seagull’s wings shall dip and pivot him,
Shedding white rings of tumult, building high
Over the chained bay waters Liberty–

Then, with  inviolate curve, forsake our eyes
As apparitional as sails that cross
Some page of figures to be filed away;
–Till elevators drop us from our day . . .

I think of cinemas, panoramic  sleights
With multitudes bent toward some flashing scene
Never disclosed, but hastened to again,
Foretold to other eyes on the same screen;

And Thee, across the harbor, silver-paced
As though the sun took step of thee, yet left
Some motion ever unspent in thy stride,–
Implicitly thy freedom staying thee!

Out of some subway scuttle, cell or loft
A bedlamite speeds to thy parapets,
Tilting there momently, shrill shirt ballooning,
A jest falls from the speechless caravan.

Down Wall, from girder into street noon leaks,
A rip-tooth of the sky’s acetylene;
All afternoon the cloud-flown derricks turn . . .
Thy cables breathe the North Atlantic still.

And obscure as that heaven of the Jews,
Thy guerdon . . . Accolade thou dost bestow
Of anonymity time cannot raise:
Vibrant reprieve and pardon thou dost show.

O harp and altar, of the fury fused,
(How could mere toil align thy choiring strings!)
Terrific threshold of the prophet’s pledge,
Prayer of pariah, and the lover’s cry,–

Again the traffic lights that skim thy swift
Unfractioned idiom, immaculate sigh of stars,
Beading thy path–condense eternity:
And we have seen night lifted in thine arms.

Under thy shadow by the piers I waited;
Only in darkness is thy shadow clear.
The City’s fiery parcels all undone,
Already snow submerges an iron year . . .

O Sleepless as the river under thee,
Vaulting the sea, the prairies’ dreaming sod,
Unto us lowliest sometime sweep, descend
And of the curveship lend a myth to God.

Talking about why he chose this poem, Hoon writes:

“The poem is also noteworthy for its intriguing mixture of modernism and elizabethan style, its use of the archaic pronoun Thou in its varied forms, the standard iambic pentameter that it’s written-in, but even beyond that, a rhythmic style, grandeur or solemnity, that sounds and feels Elizabethan, derived from King James. And so provides a venue to learning or review about the iambic line, in action as it were. Its probably useful to compare Crane’s Proem with a short speech from Shakespeare, say, Jaques’ Seven Ages of Man speech from As You Like it. “

You can read more of Hoon’s thoughts on this poem, as well as a delightful poetic paraphrase of the poem here.

Hoon also provides a version of the text marked for prosody, accent and metrical scansion (plus an evocative background image) here, so you may want to listen to the poem while reading along with that.

Finally, for additional commentary on the poem see Minstrels here. You can also check out the other Hart Crane poems on poi-tre here.


November 26, 2007 at 4:06 pm 2 comments


Hart Crane


We will make our meek adjustments,
Contented with such random consolations
As the wind deposits
In slithered and too ample pockets.

For we can still love the world, who find
A famished kitten on the step, and know
Recesses for it from the fury of the street,
Or warm torn elbow coverts.

We will sidestep, and to the final smirk
Dally the doom of that inevitable thumb
That slowly chafes its puckered index toward us,
Facing the dull squint with what innocence
And what surprise!

And yet these fine collapses are not lies
More than the pirouettes of any pliant cane;
Our obsequies are, in a way, no enterprise.
We can evade you, and all else but the heart:
What blame to us if the heart live on.

The game enforces smirks; but we have seen
The moon in lonely alleys make
A grail of laughter of an empty ash can,
And through all sound of gaiety and quest
Have heard a kitten in the wilderness.

What better way to end our poems about movies theme than with this exquisite poem by Hart Crane. Crane is one of the greatest and most original visionaries of twentieth century poetry, shaper of an inimitable aesthetic, master of finding the lyrical in the prosaic, the astonishment of beauty in the tedium of the everyday. What other poet could have taken something as out and out entertaining, as raucously funny, as a Chaplin film, and written a poem this gentle, this heartbreaking? What other poet could have written a line as perfect as “we have seen / The moon in lonely alleys make / A grail of laughter of an empty ash can, / And through all sound of gaiety and quest / Have heard a kitten in the wilderness”?

I can think of no better summing up of this madcap enterprise of illusion and fantasy, of moonlight and tears,  that we call the movies.


August 14, 2007 at 2:40 am 3 comments