Powhatan's Daughter

> The River

Here is a map of the locations mentioned in the poem. I haven't included general areas (the Ozarks, or state names), just particular cities (which I think are in their own category symbolically, in that they are train stops).

If you click through to the larger map, you will see the locations listed in the order they appear in the poem, for what it's worth. I am pretty sure I found the wrong Siskiyou (the only one I could find was a county in California).

View Larger Map

(numbers refer to lines of the poem)

3: Tintex--Japalac--Certain-teed Overalls : Ellmann and O'Clair tell us that these are the names of a dye, a varnish, and a brand of overalls.

5: see Bert Williams : Egbert A. Williams (1876-1922) was a Black Broadway entertainer. He is seen on an ad underneath the torn corner of a newer playbill on top of his; it is a joke that the overlaid playbill is torn in its "guaranteed corner."

I assume the torn playbill is the ad for Certain-teed Overalls, although technically a playbill only refers to an advertisement for a stage play.

5: what? : Perhaps the ad about Bert Williams reads "See Bert Williams . . ." and the rest is obscured.

9-10: Thomas / a Ediford : Ellmann and O'Clair tell us that this name is a conflation of Thomas A. Edison, Saint Thomas à Becket, and Henry Ford.

14-15: COMMERCE and the HOLYGHOST / RADIO : May allude to radio evangelists such as Aimee Semple McPherson, who I think Mariani says (though I can't find the reference) Crane quite disliked. Especially likely if we read "HOLYGHOST RADIO" as one large compound noun, rather than with an implicit semicolon between "HOLYGHOST" and "RADIO."

There is also a pun here, since radio transmits information invisibly through the air, and seems somewhat Holy-Ghost-like in its own workings. (My capitalization of these lines follows the Simon edition.)

15: NORTHPOLE : Admiral Richard E. Byrd claimed to have flown over the North Pole in 1926, though the authenticity of his story is now in doubt: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Evelyn_Byrd>. Nilsen says that there was some sort of "radio contact between [Byrd] and civilization" during the trip as well.

16-17: WITHOUT STONES OR / WIRES OR EVEN RUNning brooks : radio is amazing because there is no visible or tangible connection between the broadcast points and the radio receivers.

I fail to see how stones were used in communication in the past--as stone tablets? (The same holds for brooks, though perhaps they carried boats, though that would probably require a bigger channel of water, more a river than a brook.)

19: as you like it : a reference to Shakespeare's play As You Like It.

19-20: the 20th Century . . . the Limited : aside from the obvious symbolic value of these names, the 20th Century Limited was an actual "Pullman sleeper train running between New York and Chicago" (Nilsen).

21: three men : A comment from Nilsen: "Crane's hoboes, who are the main protagonists of 'The River,' have something in common with the Indian, in that they have not really been touched by the industrial revolution and have . . . a more primitive conception of the land. . . .These men have an organic sense of time which contrasts with the mechanical concept of both time and space that the telegraph wires [lines 25-27] are evidence of . . . The tramps relate themselves to time by looking at the river and imagining the time span of its development from a brook [lines 28-30]" (p. 67).

The three men of line 21 may or may not be the same men of line 28; I would suspect that line 28 is not citing any specific men, just a type of man.

23: gimleted . . . neatly : A gimlet is a small tool for boring holes, so "gimleted" means "pierced with a small hole or holes." But it is also a mixed drink, and in the world of alcohol, to have liquor "neat" means to have it straight, without any mixer. This joke is surely intentional: Crane was quite an alcoholic. (To be anal, a gimlet is diluted, and so cannot be neat, but this is probably over-reading.)

39-40: see the lyrics to My Old Kentucky Home (if this link is dead, be aware that the lyrics were changed in 1986, to replace "darkies" with "people," among other changes); the lyrics to Casey Jones (see also the story of John Luther "Casey" Jones, 1863-1900); and the lyrics to Some Sunny Day, by Irving Berlin, from 1922.

45: Aunt Sally Simpson : Mrs. T. W. Simpson, called "Aunt Sally" by Crane, was his housekeeper when he was on the Isle of Pines, where his mother owned a plantation (Lewis).

46: It was almost Louisiana : Aunt Sally told Crane of her memories of Louisiana (Mariani p. 244).

53: My father's cannery works : Crane's father did own a cannery works, in Warren, Ohio (Lewis).

59: play : a game (appropriate to "childhood"), or a stage play (cf. line 19).

112: Dan Midland : a "legendary hobo . . . who was killed while hitching a ride on a railroad freight car" (Nilsen).

133: over De Soto's bones : Fernando De Soto "discovered" (from the European perspective) the Mississippi river in 1541 (or at least was the first European to document that he saw it). When he died in 1542, his men did in fact sink his body in the river: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hernando_de_Soto_(explorer)#De_Soto.27s_death>

134: the City storied of three thrones : New Orleans, ruled at different times by the Spanish, the French, and the English.

136: Anon : and soon afterward

136: tall ironsides up from salt lagoons : Mariani says this refers to the hulks of swamped iron-clad ships left over from the Civil War.

140: its long bed : this means the long riverbed, but also a bed in which the river has metaphorically been sleeping for a long time, as played on by "dream" in the next line.

This page has been edited 14 times. The last modification was made by - MisterMartin MisterMartin on Mar 10, 2008 8:10 am