Study Guide

To Brooklyn Bridge Spirituality

By Hart Crane

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Then, with inviolate curve, forsake our eyes
As apparitional as sails that cross (lines 5-6)

The seagull is one of the central images of spirituality and the soul in Walt Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," which inspired Crane's poem. Crane picks up on the symbol at the beginning of "To Brooklyn Bridge." Don't you love how poetry can turn something many people consider a flying rat into a symbol of a person's deepest core?

And obscure as that heaven of the Jews,
Thy guerdon . . . (lines 25-26)

The bridge gives a reward, or "guerdon," to its admirer. Its guerdon is like the Jewish heaven from the Hebrew Bible or the Christian Old Testament, which is to say that it's full of majesty and mystery. This line marks the beginning of the poem's transition to a more spiritual tone.

Terrific threshold of the prophet's pledge,
Prayer of pariah, and the lover's cry,-- (lines 31-32)

Brooklyn Bridge is like something foretold in an old prophecy. If you think about it, a prophet living 3,000 years ago probably would have called you crazy if you'd told them there would one day be a road hanging in the air over a large body of water. Crane encourages us to look at the modern world with new eyes, to appreciate the marvels we typically take for granted.

Again the traffic lights that skim thy swift
Unfractioned idiom, immaculate sigh of stars,
Beading thy path--condense eternity: (lines 33-35)

Once again Crane takes a very ordinary image – traffic lights on a bridge – and turns it into a magnificent symbol of spirituality. The lights are like "beads" that go on forever, i.e., "condense eternity." Another way to read the image is that they are like stars that have fallen to rest on the bridge, stars being an age-old symbol for heaven or eternity.

And of the curveship lend a myth to God. (line 44)

Crane manages to elevate the bridge to mythic status while giving a kick in the ribs to the Judeo-Christian tradition. He says that the bridge should lend a "myth" to God, which suggests that God is lacking in mythological significance. "Curveship" is a word invented by Crane to express the bridge's special mythological qualities.

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