The Bridge: Quaker Hill

Harold Hart Crane 1899 (Garrettsville, Ohio) – 1932 (Gulf of Mexico)

Perspective never withers from their eyes;   
They keep that docile edict of the Spring
That blends March with August Antarctic skies:   
These are but cows that see no other thing   
Than grass and snow, and their own inner being   
Through the rich halo that they do not trouble   
Even to cast upon the seasons fleeting
Though they should thin and die on last year’s stubble.

And they are awkward, ponderous and uncoy . . .   
While we who press the cider mill, regarding them—
We, who with pledges taste the bright annoy   
Of friendship’s acid wine, retarding phlegm,
Shifting reprisals (’til who shall tell us when
The jest is too sharp to be kindly?) boast
Much of our store of faith in other men
Who would, ourselves, stalk down the merriest ghost.

Above them old Mizzentop, palatial white   
Hostelry—floor by floor to cinquefoil dormer   
Portholes the ceilings stack their stoic height.   
Long tiers of windows staring out toward former   
Faces—loose panes crown the hill and gleam   
At sunset with a silent, cobwebbed patience . . .   

See them, like eyes that still uphold some dream   
Through mapled vistas, cancelled reservations!

High from the central cupola, they say
One’s glance could cross the borders of three states;   
But I have seen death’s stare in slow survey   
From four horizons that no one relates . . .   
Weekenders avid of their turf-won scores,
Here three hours from the semaphores, the Czars
Of golf, by twos and threes in plaid plusfours   
Alight with sticks abristle and cigars.

This was the Promised Land, and still it is
To the persuasive suburban land agent
In bootleg roadhouses where the gin fizz
Bubbles in time to Hollywood’s new love-nest pageant.   
Fresh from the radio in the old Meeting House   
(Now the New Avalon Hotel) volcanoes roar
A welcome to highsteppers that no mouse
Who saw the Friends there ever heard before.

What cunning neighbors history has in fine!   
The woodlouse mortgages the ancient deal   
Table that Powitzky buys for only nine-   
Ty-five at Adams’ auction,—eats the seal,   
The spinster polish of antiquity . . .   
Who holds the lease on time and on disgrace?   
What eats the pattern with ubiquity?
Where are my kinsmen and the patriarch race?

The resigned factions of the dead preside.   
Dead rangers bled their comfort on the snow;   
But I must ask slain Iroquois to guide
Me farther than scalped Yankees knew to go:   
Shoulder the curse of sundered parentage,   
Wait for the postman driving from Birch Hill   
With birthright by blackmail, the arrant page   
That unfolds a new destiny to fill . . . .   

So, must we from the hawk’s far stemming view,   
Must we descend as worm’s eye to construe   
Our love of all we touch, and take it to the Gate
As humbly as a guest who knows himself too late,
His news already told? Yes, while the heart is wrung,
Arise—yes, take this sheaf of dust upon your tongue!
In one last angelus lift throbbing throat—
Listen, transmuting silence with that stilly note

Of pain that Emily, that Isadora knew!
While high from dim elm-chancels hung with dew,
That triple-noted clause of moonlight—
Yes, whip-poor-will, unhusks the heart of fright,
Breaks us and saves, yes, breaks the heart, yet yields
That patience that is armour and that shields
Love from despair—when love forsees the end—
Leaf after autumnal leaf
                                    break off,

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 05, 2023

2:46 min read

Quick analysis:

Scheme ababbcbc bdxdefef ghghix ix jkjkxlal mnmnopop qrqrstst uvuvxwxw xxyyzz1 1 xxgg2 2 3 xx3 3
Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 3,490
Words 555
Stanzas 10
Stanza Lengths 8, 8, 6, 2, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 11

Harold Hart Crane

Harold Hart Crane was an American poet. Finding both inspiration and provocation in the poetry of T. S. Eliot, Crane wrote modernist poetry that was difficult, highly stylized, and ambitious in its scope. In his most ambitious work, The Bridge, Crane sought to write an epic poem, in the vein of The Waste Land, that expressed a more optimistic view of modern, urban culture than the one that he found in Eliot's work. In the years following his suicide at the age of 32, Crane has been hailed by playwrights, poets, and literary critics alike (including Robert Lowell, Derek Walcott, Tennessee Williams, and Harold Bloom), as being one of the most influential poets of his generation.  more…

All Harold Hart Crane poems | Harold Hart Crane Books

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