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To Brooklyn Bridge

To Brooklyn Bridge


by Hart Crane

The Bridge as Religious Object

Symbol Analysis

Like some other modernist writers, and like his 19th century forbear Walt Whitman, Crane thought religion had lost its power to move and inspire people. It had become ritual and formulaic rather than life-affirming. Crane thinks people need mysticism and a communion of shared social experiences, and religion hasn't been meeting those needs. The magnificent, awe-inspiring bridge provides the possibility of filling that gap. If you look at the Brooklyn Bridge, the arches that cars drive through actually look like the nave of a medieval church. In short, Crane treats the bridge as an object of almost religious devotion.

  • Lines 25-26: In a simile, the speaker compares the bridge's promise of a reward (for devotion to it or appreciation of it) to the promise of heaven in Jewish scriptures. Both the Jewish heaven and the symbolic heaven of the bridge are "obscure" – hard to wrap your head around.
  • Line 28: The bridge offers "pardon," suggesting a relationship not unlike a priest who forgives sins.
  • Line 29: The altar is a metaphor for the platform of the bridge. In the metaphor, the bridge is a space of religious worship.
  • Line 31: The bridge is described as a "threshold" or "entrance" to the pledge of a prophet. It metaphorically fulfills the promises of past prophets.
  • Line 35: The lights of the traffic on the bridge are a visual symbol of eternity. Metaphorically, they are like beads (prayer beads?).
  • Line 44: The last line implies that the idea of God has lost its power – expressed through the phrase that God needs to be "lent" a myth.

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