from The Bridge: Atlantis

By Hart Crane 1899–1932 Hart Crane
Through the bound cable strands, the arching path   
Upward, veering with light, the flight of strings,—
Taut miles of shuttling moonlight syncopate   
The whispered rush, telepathy of wires.
Up the index of night, granite and steel—
Transparent meshes—fleckless the gleaming staves—
Sibylline voices flicker, waveringly stream   
As though a god were issue of the strings. . . .   

And through that cordage, threading with its call
One arc synoptic of all tides below—
Their labyrinthine mouths of history   
Pouring reply as though all ships at sea   
Complighted in one vibrant breath made cry,—
“Make thy love sure—to weave whose song we ply!”   
—From black embankments, moveless soundings hailed,   
So seven oceans answer from their dream.

And on, obliquely up bright carrier bars   
New octaves trestle the twin monoliths
Beyond whose frosted capes the moon bequeaths   
Two worlds of sleep (O arching strands of song!)—
Onward and up the crystal-flooded aisle   
White tempest nets file upward, upward ring   
With silver terraces the humming spars,   
The loft of vision, palladium helm of stars.

Sheerly the eyes, like seagulls stung with rime—
Slit and propelled by glistening fins of light—
Pick biting way up towering looms that press   
Sidelong with flight of blade on tendon blade   
—Tomorrows into yesteryear—and link
What cipher-script of time no traveller reads
But who, through smoking pyres of love and death,   
Searches the timeless laugh of mythic spears.

Like hails, farewells—up planet-sequined heights   
Some trillion whispering hammers glimmer Tyre:   
Serenely, sharply up the long anvil cry
Of inchling aeons silence rivets Troy.
And you, aloft there—Jason! hesting Shout!   
Still wrapping harness to the swarming air!   
Silvery the rushing wake, surpassing call,
Beams yelling Aeolus! splintered in the straits!

From gulfs unfolding, terrible of drums,   
Tall Vision-of-the-Voyage, tensely spare—
Bridge, lifting night to cycloramic crest   
Of deepest day—O Choir, translating time   
Into what multitudinous Verb the suns   
And synergy of waters ever fuse, recast   
In myriad syllables,—Psalm of Cathay!
O Love, thy white, pervasive Paradigm . . . !

We left the haven hanging in the night
Sheened harbor lanterns backward fled the keel.   
Pacific here at time’s end, bearing corn,—
Eyes stammer through the pangs of dust and steel.   
And still the circular, indubitable frieze
Of heaven’s meditation, yoking wave
To kneeling wave, one song devoutly binds—
The vernal strophe chimes from deathless strings!

O Thou steeled Cognizance whose leap commits   
The agile precincts of the lark’s return;
Within whose lariat sweep encinctured sing   
In single chrysalis the many twain,—
Of stars Thou art the stitch and stallion glow
And like an organ, Thou, with sound of doom—
Sight, sound and flesh Thou leadest from time’s realm   
As love strikes clear direction for the helm.

Swift peal of secular light, intrinsic Myth
Whose fell unshadow is death’s utter wound,—
O River-throated—iridescently upborne
Through the bright drench and fabric of our veins;   
With white escarpments swinging into light,   
Sustained in tears the cities are endowed
And justified conclamant with ripe fields
Revolving through their harvests in sweet torment.

Forever Deity’s glittering Pledge, O Thou   
Whose canticle fresh chemistry assigns   
To wrapt inception and beatitude,—
Always through blinding cables, to our joy,   
Of thy white seizure springs the prophecy:   
Always through spiring cordage, pyramids   
Of silver sequel, Deity’s young name   
Kinetic of white choiring wings . . . ascends.

Migrations that must needs void memory,
Inventions that cobblestone the heart,—
Unspeakable Thou Bridge to Thee, O Love.
Thy pardon for this history, whitest Flower,
O Answerer of all,—Anemone,—
Now while thy petals spend the suns about us, hold—
(O Thou whose radiance doth inherit me)   
Atlantis,—hold thy floating singer late!

So to thine Everpresence, beyond time,   
Like spears ensanguined of one tolling star
That bleeds infinity—the orphic strings,   
Sidereal phalanxes, leap and converge:   
—One Song, one Bridge of Fire! Is it Cathay,   
Now pity steeps the grass and rainbows ring   
The serpent with the eagle in the leaves. . . . ?   
Whispers antiphonal in azure swing.

Source: The Complete Poems of Hart Crane (2001)

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Poet Hart Crane 1899–1932

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects Time & Brevity, History & Politics, Living, Social Commentaries