Annotations to Hart Crane's The Bridge

Challenged by the obscurity of American poet Hart Crane's major long poem The Bridge (1930), I decided to post some annotations to it. Use the menu on the left to see my pages for each section of the poem.

In general, my professor emphasized that The Bridge was written as a counterpart to T. S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land (1922). Where Eliot had condemned the age, Crane was going to celebrate it.

A good general article on Crane is here at the Poetry Foundation.

I attempt to make out concrete meanings for the words and phrases in the poem. But this may not be the best way to read Crane. As early as the "white rings of tumult" in line three of "To Brooklyn Bridge," we find an image that seems almost impervious to a literal reading.

Similarly, Lewis skillfully ties the poem together in concrete ways (for example, he suggests that Larry, who goes to sea in "Indiana," may be the sailor we meet later in "Cutty Sark"). But one could also regard the poem as a set of fragments connected only by symbolism and theme.

Given the poem's difficulty, it seems ironic that one reason Crane choose the title was that he wanted the poem itself to bridge the gap between readers and author. (As discussed on Mariani p. 223.)


1) A 1932 picture of the Brooklyn Bridge looking from Brooklyn, the end on which Crane lived (see note to line 4 of "To Brooklyn Bridge"), towards Manhattan.

The Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan seen from the Robert Gair building, 1932

This image is from the Library of Congress; here is its information:

TITLE: New York city views. Brooklyn Bridge, and lower New York, from Robert Gair Building I
CALL NUMBER: LC-G612- 17798 <P&P>[P&P]
REPRODUCTION NUMBER: LC-G612-T01-17798 (b&w film dup. neg.)
No known restrictions on publication.
CREATOR: Gottscho, Samuel H. (Samuel Herman), 1875-1971, photographer.

2) A portrait of Crane by his friend, the fabulous photographer Walker Evans.

Hart Crane by Walker Evans, 1930

3) There is a 1932 memorial painting to Hart Crane by his friend artist Marsden Hartley, called Eight Bells' Folly, Memorial for Hart Crane.

Hartley did the painting after Crane jumped to his death from an ocean liner, the Orizaba. The title referred to ships' use of eight bells to signify noon, the time Crane jumped from the liner. The painting also contains the number 33, a reference to the traditional age of Christ when he was crucified and to Crane's own age at death (or so Hartley thought; Crane was actually still 32). For more, see Mariani page 425.

There's no good image on the web, but the painting can be found in ArtSTOR, if you have access to that service through a research library.

4) Crane admired the book New York by the artist Joseph Stella, and wanted to use one of Stella's paintings of the Brooklyn Bridge for his own book. (He ended up using three photographs of the bridge by Walker Evans instead.) Stella did many paintings of the bridge, so I'm not sure which one Crane wanted, since I haven't seen Stella's book.

This page has been edited 37 times. The last modification was made by - MisterMartin MisterMartin on Mar 10, 2008 6:58 am