To Brooklyn Bridge
by Hart Crane
Hart Crane picks up where Whitman left off in "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" – using a non-religious experience to represent a state of freedom and interconnectedness between people. The Brooklyn Bridge is an example of an essentially American art form – beautiful, massive, functional, and commercial all at once. It provides freedom of movement over a large body of water, bringing together many different kinds of people. It also provides comfort to those on the margins of society, like "prophets" and "pariahs," people who would not otherwise feel free.
- Line 4: The word "building" has two meanings here: the bird is rising in flight, but metaphorically it also "builds" an image of liberty. Paradoxically, the gull flies through a "chained" ocean, and of course chains are a symbol of the opposite of liberty.
- Lines 14-16: Another paradox: the bridge is "stayed" by its "freedom." To "stay" something means to prevent it from moving, but the bridge is "free" because it hangs free in the air.
- Line 17: The bedlamite does not have freedom – he is one of the poor souls confined by poverty. He lives in a "cell," a one-room apartment, also a pun on a prison cell.
- Line 41-42: The bridge is identified with American freedom and democracy. It metaphorically spans the whole middle of the country, uniting coast to coast.