Powhatan's Daughter

> The Dance


I expect contemporary critics might give Crane flack for romanticizing of the Native American "Other." Lewis takes a gentler line, finding Crane's work "quite legitimat[e]," but conceding that "historical familiarity with the actual American Indian will only divert the reader's understanding" (quotes from p. 313).


(numbers refer to lines of the poem)

sidebar: her chieftain / lover : implying that Pocahontas and Maquokeeta were lovers?

1: red flesh : since Native Americans are traditionally considered to have reddish skin, Lewis thinks that this figure, while some sort of god, is also Native American.

5: drouth : variant of "drought."

15: Princess : I wonder how close Pocahontas's role in her society was to the European idea of a princess?

15: lap : in Shakespeare, "lap" has a sexual meaning.

15: virgin May : I think this phrase undermines its own virginity. First, there is a pun on "may," as in, "you may." Second, the month of May is when April showers bring flowers, a spring time of birth (although this could be taken to indicate distant future, not currently impending, birth).

16: tawny : the color of tanned skin. Suggests to me that the speaker is a European, because this doesn't seem like the sort of thing the Indians would observe about themselves, since their skin color is usual to them.

19-20: your hair's keen crescent running . . . First moth of evening take wing : perhaps an early allusion to the serpent and eagle imagery that will become so important (cf. line 104)?

21: chains . . . the water . . . threw : in order to catch something?

33: Appalachian Spring : there's lots to know about Appalachia: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appalachia>. Aaron Copland's wonderful 1944 ballet score "Appalachian Spring" (also scored as an orchestral suite) was named after this phrase from The Bridge, at dancer Martha Graham's suggestion.

34: steep, inaccessible smile : a mountain range.

36: Adirondacks : Mountains in the state of New York: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adirondacks>. Often grouped with the Appalachians, as part of their northern extent (the Appalachians actually reach into Canada, but "Appalachia" generally refers to the southern part of the range).

37: tarns : small mountain lakes with steep banks. The word used by Poe over and over in "The Fall of the House of Usher," if that's worth anything.

45: turbine : a blending of nature (the "cyclone") with technology, which suits The Bridge as a whole, but surprises me a bit here.

47: Maquokeeta : Lewis claims he is an Indian prince who is burned to death at the stake while he continues to dance. An invented character with the actual name of a taxi driver Crane had in New York (Mariani p. 256).

48: Sachem : a North American Indian chief.

48: tamarack : any of several American larch trees. <http://www.webster.com/dictionary/tamarack> may suggest that the tree for which the term is most commonly used would not actually grow here (depending on where "here" is).

55: Now snaps the flint in every tooth : I irresistibly hear this line echoed by Berryman's poem "Song 1" from The Dream Songs (written long after The Bridge): "Hard on the land wears the strong sea / and empty grows every bed." I have no evidence that Berryman was making an allusion; I just wanted to put it down because the echo was driving me crazy.

59: Medicine-man : for Lewis, a stand-in for "the poet."

62: liege : refers to feudal loyalty. May mean "loyal to" or "owed loyalty by"; probably has the former meaning here?

71: flame cataracts : a cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye. Seems oxymoronic, since flame usually illuminates. But perhaps it refers to blindingly bright light? Or perhaps the less-common sense of cataract is intended, as a waterfall or downpour.

73: furious noon : in a sense an oxymoron, since noon is often a very still time of day. (In another sense not one, since it is also often the hottest time of day.)

81: thewed of the levin : muscled of the lightning. ("Levin" is archaic English; there is a lot of that in this poem, suggesting perhaps a fusion of the European and the Native American?)

96: into bloom : I cannot but think here of arousal and erecting nipples.




This page has been edited 8 times. The last modification was made by - MisterMartin MisterMartin on Mar 10, 2008 8:21 am.