At Melville’s Tomb
By Hart Crane
The dice of drowned men’s bones he saw bequeath
An embassy. Their numbers as he watched,
Beat on the dusty shore and were obscured.
And wrecks passed without sound of bells,
The calyx of death’s bounty giving back
A scattered chapter, livid hieroglyph,
The portent wound in corridors of shells.
Then in the circuit calm of one vast coil,
Its lashings charmed and malice reconciled,
Frosted eyes there were that lifted altars;
And silent answers crept across the stars.
Compass, quadrant and sextant contrive
No farther tides ... High in the azure steeps
Monody shall not wake the mariner.
This fabulous shadow only the sea keeps.
For The Marriage of Faustus and Helen
By Hart Crane
The mind has shown itself at times
Too much the baked and labeled dough
Divided by accepted multitudes.
Across the stacked partitions of the day—
Across the memoranda, baseball scores,
The stenographic smiles and stock quotations
Smutty wings flash out equivocations.
The mind is brushed by sparrow wings;
Numbers, rebuffed by asphalt, crowd
The margins of the day, accent the curbs,
Convoying divers dawns on every corner
To druggist, barber and tobacconist,
Until the graduate opacities of evening
Take them away as suddenly to somewhere
Virginal perhaps, less fragmentary, cool.
There is the world dimensional for
those untwisted by the love of things
And yet, suppose some evening I forgot
The fare and transfer, yet got by that way
Without recall,—lost yet poised in traffic.
Then I might find your eyes across an aisle,
Still flickering with those prefigurations—
Prodigal, yet uncontested now,
Half-riant before the jerky window frame.
There is some way, I think, to touch
Those hands of yours that count the nights
Stippled with pink and green advertisements.
And now, before its arteries turn dark
I would have you meet this bartered blood.
Imminent in his dream, none better knows
The white wafer cheek of love, or offers words
Lightly as moonlight on the eaves meets snow.
Reflective conversion of all things
At your deep blush, when ecstasies thread
The limbs and belly, when rainbows spread
Impinging on the throat and sides ...
Inevitable, the body of the world
Weeps in inventive dust for the hiatus
That winks above it, bluet in your breasts.
The earth may glide diaphanous to death;
But if I lift my arms it is to bend
To you who turned away once, Helen, knowing
The press of troubled hands, too alternate
With steel and soil to hold you endlessly.
I meet you, therefore, in that eventual flame
You found in final chains, no captive then—
Beyond their million brittle, bloodshot eyes;
White, through white cities passed on to assume
That world which comes to each of us alone.
Accept a lone eye riveted to your plane,
Bent axle of devotion along companion ways
That beat, continuous, to hourless days—
One inconspicuous, glowing orb of praise.
Brazen hypnotics glitter here;
Glee shifts from foot to foot,
Magnetic to their tremulo.
This crashing opera bouffe,
Blest excursion! this ricochet
From roof to roof—
Know, Olympians, we are breathless
While nigger cupids scour the stars!
A thousand light shrugs balance us
Through snarling hails of melody.
White shadows slip across the floor
Splayed like cards from a loose hand;
Rhythmic ellipses lead into canters
Until somewhere a rooster banters.
Greet naively—yet intrepidly
New soothings, new amazements
That cornets introduce at every turn—
And you may fall downstairs with me
With perfect grace and equanimity.
Or, plaintively scud past shores
Where, by strange harmonic laws
All relatives, serene and cool,
Sit rocked in patent armchairs.
O,I have known metallic paradises
Where cuckoos clucked to finches
Above the deft catastrophes of drums.
While titters hailed the groans of death
Beneath gyrating awnings I have seen
The incunabula of the divine grotesque.
This music has a reassuring way.
The siren of the springs of guilty song—
Let us take her on the incandescent wax
Striated with nuances, nervosities
That we are heir to: she is still so young,
We cannot frown upon her as she smiles,
Dipping here in this cultivated storm
Among slim skaters of the gardened skies.
Capped arbiter of beauty in this street
That narrows darkly into motor dawn,—
You, here beside me, delicate ambassador
Of intricate slain numbers that arise
In whispers, naked of steel;
Who faithfully, yourself, will fall too soon,
And in other ways than as the wind settles
On the sixteen thrifty bridges of the city:
Let us unbind our throats of fear and pity.
Who drove speediest destruction
In corymbulous formations of mechanics,—
Who hurried the hill breezes, spouting malice
Plangent over meadows, and looked down
On rifts of torn and empty houses
Like old women with teeth unjubilant
That waited faintly, briefly and in vain:
We know, eternal gunman, our flesh remembers
The tensile boughs, the nimble blue plateaus,
The mounted, yielding cities of the air!
That saddled sky that shook down vertical
Repeated play of fire—no hypogeum
Of wave or rock was good against one hour.
We did not ask for that, but have survived,
And will persist to speak again before
All stubble streets that have not curved
To memory, or known the ominous lifted arm
That lowers down the arc of Helen’s brow
To saturate with blessing and dismay.
A goose, tobacco and cologne
Three winged and gold-shod prophecies of heaven,
The lavish heart shall always have to leaven
And spread with bells and voices, and atone
The abating shadows of our conscript dust.
Anchises’ navel, dripping of the sea,—
The hands Erasmus dipped in gleaming tides,
Gathered the voltage of blown blood and vine;
Delve upward for the new and scattered wine,
O brother-thief of time, that we recall.
Laugh out the meager penance of their days
Who dare not share with us the breath released,
The substance drilled and spent beyond repair
For golden, or the shadow of gold hair.
Distinctly praise the years, whose volatile
Blamed bleeding hands extend and thresh the height
The imagination spans beyond despair,
Outpacing bargain, vocable and prayer.A Name for All
By Hart Crane
And still wing on, untarnished of the name
We pinion to your bodies to assuage
Our envy of your freedom—we must maim
Because we are usurpers, and chagrined—
And take the wing and scar it in the hand.
Names we have, even, to clap on the wind;
But we must die, as you, to understand.
I dreamed that all men dropped their names, and sang
As only they can praise, who build their days
With fin and hoof, with wing and sweetened fang
Struck free and holy in one Name always.
Repose of Rivers
By Hart Crane
A sarabande the wind mowed on the mead.
I could never remember
That seething, steady leveling of the marshes
Till age had brought me to the sea.
Flags, weeds. And remembrance of steep alcoves
Where cypresses shared the noon’s
Tyranny; they drew me into hades almost.
And mammoth turtles climbing sulphur dreams
Yielded, while sun-silt rippled them
How much I would have bartered! the black gorge
And all the singular nestings in the hills
Where beavers learn stitch and tooth.
The pond I entered once and quickly fled—
I remember now its singing willow rim.
And finally, in that memory all things nurse;
After the city that I finally passed
With scalding unguents spread and smoking darts
The monsoon cut across the delta
At gulf gates ... There, beyond the dykes
I heard wind flaking sapphire, like this summer,
And willows could not hold more steady sound.
from The Bridge: Quaker Hill
By Hart Crane
They keep that docile edict of the Spring
That blends March with August Antarctic skies:
These are but cows that see no other thing
Than grass and snow, and their own inner being
Through the rich halo that they do not trouble
Even to cast upon the seasons fleeting
Though they should thin and die on last year’s stubble.
And they are awkward, ponderous and uncoy . . .
While we who press the cider mill, regarding them—
We, who with pledges taste the bright annoy
Of friendship’s acid wine, retarding phlegm,
Shifting reprisals (’til who shall tell us when
The jest is too sharp to be kindly?) boast
Much of our store of faith in other men
Who would, ourselves, stalk down the merriest ghost.
Above them old Mizzentop, palatial white
Hostelry—floor by floor to cinquefoil dormer
Portholes the ceilings stack their stoic height.
Long tiers of windows staring out toward former
Faces—loose panes crown the hill and gleam
At sunset with a silent, cobwebbed patience . . .
See them, like eyes that still uphold some dream
Through mapled vistas, cancelled reservations!
High from the central cupola, they say
One’s glance could cross the borders of three states;
But I have seen death’s stare in slow survey
From four horizons that no one relates . . .
Weekenders avid of their turf-won scores,
Here three hours from the semaphores, the Czars
Of golf, by twos and threes in plaid plusfours
Alight with sticks abristle and cigars.
This was the Promised Land, and still it is
To the persuasive suburban land agent
In bootleg roadhouses where the gin fizz
Bubbles in time to Hollywood’s new love-nest pageant.
Fresh from the radio in the old Meeting House
(Now the New Avalon Hotel) volcanoes roar
A welcome to highsteppers that no mouse
Who saw the Friends there ever heard before.
What cunning neighbors history has in fine!
The woodlouse mortgages the ancient deal
Table that Powitzky buys for only nine-
Ty-five at Adams’ auction,—eats the seal,
The spinster polish of antiquity . . .
Who holds the lease on time and on disgrace?
What eats the pattern with ubiquity?
Where are my kinsmen and the patriarch race?
The resigned factions of the dead preside.
Dead rangers bled their comfort on the snow;
But I must ask slain Iroquois to guide
Me farther than scalped Yankees knew to go:
Shoulder the curse of sundered parentage,
Wait for the postman driving from Birch Hill
With birthright by blackmail, the arrant page
That unfolds a new destiny to fill . . . .
So, must we from the hawk’s far stemming view,
Must we descend as worm’s eye to construe
Our love of all we touch, and take it to the Gate
As humbly as a guest who knows himself too late,
His news already told? Yes, while the heart is wrung,
Arise—yes, take this sheaf of dust upon your tongue!
In one last angelus lift throbbing throat—
Listen, transmuting silence with that stilly note
Of pain that Emily, that Isadora knew!
While high from dim elm-chancels hung with dew,
That triple-noted clause of moonlight—
Yes, whip-poor-will, unhusks the heart of fright,
Breaks us and saves, yes, breaks the heart, yet yields
That patience that is armour and that shields
Love from despair—when love forsees the end—
Leaf after autumnal leaf
from The Bridge: Southern Cross
By Hart Crane
No wraith, but utterly—as still more alone
The Southern Cross takes night
And lifts her girdles from her, one by one—
wide from the slowly smoldering fire
Of lower heavens,—
or Mary, you?
Whatever call—falls vainly on the wave.
O simian Venus, homeless Eve,
Unwedded, stumbling gardenless to grieve
Windswept guitars on lonely decks forever;
Finally to answer all within one grave!
And this long wake of phosphor,
Furrow of all our travel—trailed derision!
Eyes crumble at its kiss. Its long-drawn spell
Incites a yell. Slid on that backward vision
The mind is churned to spittle, whispering hell.
I wanted you . . . The embers of the Cross
Climbed by aslant and huddling aromatically.
It is blood to remember; it is fire
To stammer back . . . It is
God—your namelessness. And the wash—
All night the water combed you with black
Insolence. You crept out simmering, accomplished.
Water rattled that stinging coil, your
Rehearsed hair—docile, alas, from many arms.
Yes, Eve—wraith of my unloved seed!
The Cross, a phantom, buckled—dropped below the dawn.
Light drowned the lithic trillions of your spawn.
ADDENDUM for the thoughtsOh Southern Cross there you stand bound by time and wretched in your stars and stained with blood you stand upon thy capital, you don't sing anymore of men in gray, but you are upheld in misery and deformity, do they curse your very name of hangings and burnings and wretched affairs for which you did attend to, hoods and blood is on your hands upon the grave did you attend over battlefields and over graves, smells and bones withered, maggots, your time is at had, to be over, to move along, castigated, burnt, shaped not by the present but by the past, you still stand, but why, why is names of misery do you still fly, killin and rapes have you seen enough in your charge, do you decree, and beseech me to my very soul, you are not the got of freedom in which I seek in these pine barrens, because where did she lay and sleep last night but in dark currents in the bosom of the hold of a ship over passages and stained with retribution and words and speeches, from which you cant see for you are blind, and your are scarce, and wrong in these fights, in these past, and my own eyes are weary from looking into the bloody palm of your existence, I am weary from you touch, from song, from our fiddled grace that you extend your hand with, and try to chop me off on the second investigation, in the the mind and the burial in which you need, but you still stand there at the capital, you still stand at houses, and on cars, you still stand on hateful grace, you still stand, when is enough is enough, in disgrace and in blood you still stand, but not forgiven, not at all, not unsightly seem, do you still stand to haunt me like muddy waters, to haunt time and place and in the past, without grace, hung upon the cross and burned, and given to unsympathetic curses and stretches of hands upwards, but you still resist, and beseech, and given retribution and solace for no one in particular, except to callous over my mind, and give me sorrow before you can give me death, for I want death, at your hands, wrapped in your malignancy, that your ardor gives, that stench you bestow upon me like your misplaced gazes, give me up, sing of me no more, release me from your bondage I am yours no more, and never was, you time is at hand oh southern cross, of hills and barrens and river and fields of blood and morning, when we will see you no more, but still you stand there looking at me, and looking over me, still you stand, in blood, and wretched approval of your deeds that have long since been past the time from which they will ache and call me no more, give me solace, give me death, those yells are gone, but are they forgotten in those hollows and creeks and over bloody fields where you lost that battle that can't be won, in my own darkness, and my own heart you are dead, but I cant quite got you away, no more how small and graceful your gaze and touch has become, I can't seem to let you go, you see to stand there, in a gory that you don;t deserve, in a battle hymn that you cant hear, because you are deaf, to the times, dead to the times, withered and burnt like frayed bodies that you have mutilated and cursed in the sweetness of your voice ever there after, did come over shores, and fields in white bright balls of disease, and grace like bow weevils did you come and go, in blood and intestines, hanging out do you stand, like bones, dust and briars, gone, forgotten, staring, with a gun pointed at me, and laughter, for me, cursing through your mouth, and taunting me with your flesh, and madness, and bosom, and nothing anymore, because you are a dead symbol at that capital, do I decree, through hills and valleys on the tops of buildings, the people who held out there hands with waters falling dirty and decayed, bitten and bleed out in scars, and mutilation from your withered skeletal touch, dead to this world and the next you stand to mock me, like a bird, hiding, ready with that gun and a knife to cut my throat in torture, but you will not leave me alone, forever there in dreams and in my nightmares, that cross burns into my sole, to plague me unto your touch you wretched flag, you malignant disease, that I cant rid myself of, because there you stand, taunting me with death, and madness, and the southern cross and all the demon that you bring there in, lay in repose and die and plague me no more.