Study Guide

To Brooklyn Bridge Awe and Amazement

By Hart Crane

Awe and Amazement

Shedding white rings of tumult, building high
Over the chained bay waters Liberty— (lines 3-4)

The speaker creates a contrast between the small white seagull and the grandeur of New York harbor that it soars above. The bird "builds" its flight around the Statue of Liberty, but the language is ambiguous. It sounds like the bird itself is creating a visual symbol of liberty. It breaks free of the "chains" of the shadow of the bridge's cables on the water. Go seagull, go!

And Thee, across the harbor, silver-paced
As though the sun took step of thee, yet left
Some motion ever unspent in thy stride,--
Implicitly thy freedom staying thee! (lines 13-16)

Whoa, this is super-Romantic language, or maybe even super-duper Romantic. (These are technical terms here, people). Actually, the technical term for the way a speaker uses language in a poem is "diction." This speaker's diction is very serious and elevated. He is consciously trying to sound like a 19th century British Romantic like John Keats, or maybe even a poet from Ancient Greece, where the ode form was invented.

And obscure as that heaven of the Jews,
Thy guerdon . . . Accolade thou dost bestow
Of anonymity time cannot raise:
Vibrant reprieve and pardon thou dost show. (lines 25-28)

One way the speaker shows his awe for the bridge is by comparing it to a mysterious religious object, rather than seeing it as a mere heap of stone and metal. In lines 27-28 there is also a subtle allusion to royalty, as if we should be addressing the bridge as Your Majesty.

O harp and altar, of the fury fused,
(How could mere toil align thy choiring strings!) (lines 29-30)

Crane uses a technique called "invocation," where he tries to summon the spirit of the bridge. Another famous example of invocation in poetry is in the first line of Homer's Odyssey: "Sing to me of the man, Muse…" Again, the speaker tries to make us think of the bridge as being more than just a material product of labor ("toil").

Unto us lowliest sometime sweep, descend
And of the curveship lend a myth to God. (lines 43-44)

After building up this ridiculously Romantic idea of Brooklyn Bridge, the speaker finally asks the bridge to descend to the human level, to inspire and sustain us mere mortals. Crane's amazement is so dramatic that he starts making up words, like "curveship." What do you think this word means in the context of the poem?

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