Powhatan's Daughter

> Van Winkle

Lewis quotes (p. 293) a September 1927 letter of Crane's to Otto Kahn in which Crane says that over the course of this poem, the poet (Lewis assumes there a single figure of "the poet") walks to the subway:

"'The walk to the subway . . . arouses reminiscences of childhood, also the "childhood" of the continental conquest, viz., the conquistadores, Priscilla [Alden, subject of an 1858 poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called "The Courtship of Miles Standish"], Capt. John Smith, etc.'"

(numbers refer to lines of the poem)

title: In Washington Irving's story "Rip Van Winkle," Rip Van Winkle sleeps for twenty years, sleeping through the American Revolution and waking up to find his wife dead and his friends gone.

1: macadam : a type of roadway pavement, named after British engineer John L. McAdam (yes, Merriam-Webster spells his name as "Mc" rather than "Mac," even though the surface is spelled the other way), d. 1836. Stress is on the second syllable.

1: tunny : a tuna.

2: Far Rockaway to Golden Gate : Far Rockaway is a village on Long Island. The Golden Gate Bridge is in San Francisco. The two locations are at opposite ends of the nation, and so a sort of "bridging" is implicit.

3: hurdy-gurdy : a musical instrument. Usually a stringed instrument (like a violin) bowed by a hand-crank, with frettable strings alongside drone strings. But here refers to a barrel organ, the "grind-organ" of line 18 (Randel).

13: Sleepy Hollow : a reference to Washington Irving's other very famous story, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (in which Van Winkle does not actually appear). Both stories were published in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon (1820).

18: grind-organ : A type of barrel organ. A barrel organ is a small organ played by cranking a barrel which has pins on it. The barrel functions like a player-piano roll, automatically playing pre-"recorded" music. The classic barrel organ died out in the 19th century, but a smaller version, worn over the shoulder on a strap, and a version on wheels survived into the 20th century. The version on wheels was usually called a street organ or a hand organ, and was played by an itinerant "organ grinder," which is the source of Crane's term (Randel).

Like the player piano in "Cutty Sark," the "grind-organ" is automatic, a forerunner of the jukebox (for you kids, a "jukebox" was a forerunner of the iPod). It is a piece of technology that makes music, more evidence that technology need not be anti-human or emotionless.

This page has been edited 3 times. The last modification was made by - MisterMartin MisterMartin on Mar 10, 2008 8:01 am