To Brooklyn Bridge
by Hart Crane
Life in the Big City
Like Walt Whitman before him, Hart Crane found life in New York City to be exciting, stimulating, a little scary, and full of pulsing life. But Crane was writing in the 20th century, so his city is full of automobiles, movie theaters, elevators, subways, and other symbols of modernity. His view of urban life is sometimes bleak – as in the suicide scene of Stanza 5 – but it's not entirely dystopian. (SAT word – look it up!) The suspension bridge is one example of a modern, urban invention that Crane feels he can put his faith in. In sum, "To Brooklyn Bridge" is a classic "New York" poem.
- Lines 6-8: The word "sails" is a pun – it refers to a ship's sails and also a sheet of "sales" figures in business.
- Lines 9-12: The movies are portrayed negatively in these lines. The "multitudes bent toward some flashing scene" is an image of robotic anonymity. The word "foretold" is an implicitly metaphoric comparison between the movies and a religious prophecy. The "eyes" in line 12 are an example of synecdoche – when a part (eyes) represents a whole (people).
- Lines 17-18: The word "parapets" is associated with medieval castles.
- Line 19: "Shrill shirt" is another alliterative phrase. "Shrill shirt ballooning" is an image of the wind at the top of the bridge.
- Line 20: In this metaphor, the bedlamite (crazy person) falling off the bridge is likened to a court jester falling from a royal caravan.
- Line 22: "Rip-tooth" is a neologism, a word Crane coined himself. The light from the sky is compared metaphorically to burning acetylene gas.
- Line 33: The image of traffic lights moving across the bridge is like something "skimming" over water.
- Lines 39-40: The windows in the city are compared metaphorically to "fiery parcels." A parcel is both a package and a part of something. The windows were "fiery" when the lights were on, but now that they're off, they are "undone," like the wrappings of a package.