At Melville’s Tomb

By Hart Crane 1899–1932 Hart Crane
Often beneath the wave, wide from this ledge
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.

Hart Crane, “At Melville’s Tomb” from The Complete Poems of Hart Crane by Hart Crane, edited by Marc SImon. Copyright © 1933, 1958, 1966 by Liveright Publishing Corporation. Copyright © 1986 by Marc Simon. Used by permission of Liveright Publishing.

Source: The Complete Poems of Hart Crane (Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2001)

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Poet Hart Crane 1899–1932

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects Death, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Ghosts & the Supernatural, Living, Nature, Mythology & Folklore

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Hart  Crane

Biography

Hart Crane is a legendary figure among American poets. In his personal life he showed little self-esteem, indulging in great and frequent bouts of alcohol abuse. In his art, however, he showed surprising optimism. Critics have contended that for Crane, misery and despair were redeemed through the apprehension of beauty, and in some of his greatest verses he articulated his own quest for redemption. He also believed strongly in . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Death, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Ghosts & the Supernatural, Living, Nature, Mythology & Folklore

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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