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The Bridge as Art

Symbol Analysis

Art was almost like a religion to Crane, and it served some of the same purposes. In the poem he "fuses" the language and symbols of art and religion to describe the bridge. In particular he compares the bridge to a kind of harp or lyre, a traditional symbol of poetry. Of course, many people consider the Brooklyn Bridge to be a legitimate art form, with its gothic arches, graceful curves, and sweeping cables. Yes it's a gigantic, expensive, very practical feat of engineering. The bridge also symbolizes what Crane thinks poetry and literature should do – connect people and ideas through imaginative "leaps." He called this thinking the "logic of metaphor."

  • Line 12-13: The speaker highlights the beauty of the bridge with a simile: it's as if the sun had walked over or across the bridge, leaving a trail of "silver." Also, he personifies the bridge by addressing it as "Thee."
  • Line 24: The bridge is personified again as a living creature that "breathes" in the air of the Atlantic. This image prepares the way for the image of the bridge as harp, with the wind playing its cables like fingers.
  • Line 29: The speaker uses an invocation to summon the bridge: "O harp and altar." In the ancient world, the harp was a symbol of poetry because poems were often sung. The two symbols, harp and lyre, are metaphorically "fused" together in the form of the bridge.
  • Line 30: The speaker asks a rhetorical question that shows he does not believe that the bridge is merely a practical object, the product of labor. Its cables ("strings") are metaphorically in harmony ("choiring").

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