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"Mingling Incantations": Hart Crane's Neo-Symbolist Poetics by Christopher A. Tidwell A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of English College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Phil lip Sipiora, Ph.D. Richard Dietrich, Ph.D. John Hatcher, Ph.D. Roberta Tucker, Ph.D. Date of Approval: March 31, 2006 Keywords: french symbolism, symbolist po etry, modern poetry, influence, metaphor Copyright 2006 Christopher A. Tidwell
i Table of Contents Abstract ii Introduction: The Symbolist Aesthetic 1 Chapter One: Hart Crane and His Literary Critics 29 Chapter Two: T. S. Eliot, Hart Crane, and Literary Influence 110 Chapter Three: Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Crane 133 Chapter Four: Mallarm and Cranes Neo-Symbolist Poetics 148 Works Cited 164 Bibliography 177 About the Author End Page
ii Mingling Incantations: Hart Cranes Neo-Symbolist Poetics Christopher A. Tidwell ABSTRACT The largest impediment to appreciating Hart Crane as a symbolist modern American poet derives from the fragmentary critical attention pa id to his borrowings from and familiarity with French Symbolis ts like Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, and Stphane Mallarm. Almost equally importa nt, the early career of T. S. Eliot exerted a profound impact on Cranes poetic development and indeed served as the primary introduction to many nineteenth-century French poets for Crane and many other American poets of his generation. This dissertation initially examines c ontemporary critical definitions of the symbolist method and explores the extent to which Hart Cranes familiarity with the French language helped shape his exposure to writers such as Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Mallarm. A reading of Cranes Black Ta mbourine, a self-pro fessed Baudelairesque thing, indicates the dissert ations general approach by showing how Cranes poems evolve as mingling incantations , as artistic blendings inte rfused by the aesthetics of the major French Symbolist poets. After presenting a historical overview a nd critique of the critical reception given to Crane as a symbolist, the rest of the dissertation interrogates the relationship of Crane to Eliot and their views on lit erary influence; examines the connections between Crane, Baudelaire, and Rimbaud; a nd finally explores the theo retical affinities between Mallarm and Cranes formulati on of a neo-symbolist poetics.
1 Introduction: The Symbolist Aesthetic The initial impetus for my dissertation derives from the first sentence of an essay by Allen Tate written shortly after Hart Cranes death: The career of Hart Crane will be written by future critics as a chapter in the neo-symbolis t movement (Hart Crane 310). Tates prophesied chapter ne ver materialized, though many subsequent critics have produced scattered and fragmentary accounts of Cranes indebtedness to the French Symbolist poets of the nineteenth century. This dissertation, a pr olegomenon to Tates prophesied chapter, will demonstrate the central ity of French Symbolist poets Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Mallarm to Cranes aesthetics and poetic technique, pl us examine shifting theories about literary influence between Crane and his chief model, T. S. Eliot. In the broadest sense, this dissertation will synthesize and extend the corpus of previous critical commentary devoted to examining Cranes stylistic and aesthetic affinities with the symbolists. My primary purpose is to demonstrate how symbolist poetics function as not one of several but rather as the primary shaping force on Cranes development--most evident in his first volume, White Buildings published in 1926. In addition, unlike most previous critical analyses I hope to interrogate the extent to which Cranes adoption and modification of sym bolist practices affected his later poem The Bridge (1930) and the lyrics coll ected after his 1932 suicide for a projected volume called Key West: An Island Sheaf.
2 An important obstacle to a ssessing Hart Cranes evolu tion as a poet lies in the diversity of critical treatm ent his work has received. Almost since the inception of Cranes career, literary critics have diverged widely in their attempts to situate his poems and letters within the modernist American ca non. Most strikingly, critics have reached nearly no consensus on how to characterize Cranes achievement as an American poet. Conclusions regarding how to categorize Cr ane range across a wide gamut from an unlettered Midwestern natural genius who never finished high school to a willfully obscure metaphysical lyricist torn between conflicting American poetic traditions-typically grouped around Poe and Whitman as major precursors. Holding up Poe and Whitman as the major roles available to modern American poets remains a holdover from earlyand mid-century New Criticism and provides a glimpse of the critical milieu in which Cran e was appreciated initially. Critical responses to The Bridge in particular have suffered from simplistic readings which overemphasize a supposedly naive Whitmanian affirmation of modern life. T. S. Eliots 1953 speech American Literature and Language traces m odern poetrys birth from the exhausted ash-heap of the tail-end of the Victorian era, and asserts, In the nineteenth century, Poe and Whitman stand out as solitary international figures ( To Criticize 58-59). John Unterecker, Cranes most thorough biographer and one of the poets most perceptive critics, invokes the same two figures in a di scussion of the poetic precursors balanced and invoked in The Bridge: since he is an artist, Crane fits into his poem, too, the oppositions which almost every artist is conscious of: the vision of art that is democratic, open, and objective and which Crane identifies with Whitman; and its
3 counterpart and opposite, an art that is intensely personal, secret, subjective--the art of the symbolist tr adition which Crane associates with Poe. (Architecture 95) Although many critics position Poe (as godfather or role model of the French Symbolists) and Whitman as Cranes primary artistic forefathers in The Bridge, the first to do so prominently was Yvor Winters in a review of The Bridge: [Crane] possesses the greatest genius in the Whitmanian tradition, and . strangely enough, he grafts onto the Whitmanian tradition something of the stylistic discipline of the Symbolists ( Uncollected 76). After a review of relevant criticism in chapter one, a fuller discussion of the complex triangulation of Eliot, Crane, and the literary climate of the reception accorded them will occur in chapter two, but at this point one need simply note the absence of Dickinson and Melville from Eliots list of international nineteen th-century American poets despite the rediscovery in the late teen s and twenties of these neglected writers. Marginalized today in the modernist canon like these nineteenth-century writers were in the earliest part of the twentieth century, Crane saw fit to write poems honoring Dickinson and Melville, a form of homage never paid by the other significant modern American poets Eliot mentions (he lists Crane with Pound, Williams, Stevens, Moore, Cummings, Ransom, and Tate). In many ways, the various descriptions of Cranes poetic career seem dazzlingly incongruous and include, in addition to these aforementioned characterizations, identifying him as the misguided heir of Emerson and Whitman (Winters), as a mystic overburdened with religious inclinations (Munson and Hanley), as the last great
4 Romantic in the Dionysian vein (Spears), as an American Futurist/Cubist valorizing industrial machinery (Paul), as a master of Marlovian blank verse in the grand manner who lacked a suitable theme (Gross), as an overly persona l lyricist who misguidedly tried to fashion a cultural epic on the idea of America (Blackmur), as a prototype of the homosexual artist excluded as perennial outcast from the cultural mainstream (Martin and Yingling), as a belated modernis t trapped in the shadow of T. S. Eliot (Tate), or even as the Cleveland Rimbaud intent on the drglement de tous les sens through stimuli such as alcohol, tobacco, and loud music (Cowley and Galpin). The sheer variety of these different approaches toward classifying the poet calls to mind Cranes own description of Nietzsche at the end of his first published pr ose review: think of being so elusive,--so mercurial, as to be first swallowed whole, then coughed up, and still remain a mystery! ( CPSLP 198). With regard to verse te chnique, however, many cont emporary critics probably would concur with Warner Berthoff in dividi ng Cranes career into three major phases: an early Imagist apprenticeship beginning in 1916 and culminating in 1922, a middle phase of full maturity heavily influenced by symbolist sensibilities running from 1923 until early 1926, and a third period spent trying to position himself as the epic bard of America via The Bridge lasting from mid-1926 until 1930. Th e critical lin eage of this standard chronology of Cranes career stretche s over almost the whole of Cranes critical reception, commencing with the early analys es by Munson and Tate. The tripartite scheme is implicit in Tates 1926 introduction to White Buildings wherein he confides that To the Imagists Crane doubtless went to school in poetry, and then anticipates The Bridge by claiming If the energy of Cranes vision never quite reaches a sustained
5 maximum, it is because he has not found a suitable theme (Introduction 52-53). Subsequent encodings of this imagist-symbolis t-epic bard scheme surface repeatedly in the biographies by Horton, Weber, and Unterecker; Untereckers Voyager (1969) in some ways represents a summary crystallization of this tripartite developmental classification reinscribed in the monographs of Lewis, Hazo, Vincent Quinn, and others in the sixties. Apart from Berthoff, the only other publis hed recent treatments (albeit oblique) of Cranes developmental evolution are by Ba rbarese, Norton-Smith, and Ernest Smith. The present study will reconf igure this conventional chronology by focusing more attention on Hart Cranes development as a symbolist poet. Adequately understanding French Symbolist aesthetics as the primary influence on Cranes development will lead to a reconsideration of his relationship to th e Anglo-American modern poetic tradition. Recent critical analyses by Yingling, Hamm er, and Dean have shown how problematic Cranes relationship remains to the modernist American poetic canon, and this dissertation intends to reconsider and more sharply define Cranes relationship to modernist poetics. The similarities between Cran es verse and the French Symbolists have long been recognized by critics, beginning with one of the first sustained discussions of Cranes style: Tates introduction to Cranes first volume, White Buildings After discussing the poets other influences such as Elizabetha n sonorous rhetoric and his spiritual allegiances to American poets Melville, Whitman and Poe, Tates introduction focuses on the stylistic features Cr ane borrows from Rimbaud: He shares with Rimbaud the device of the oblique presentation of theme. The theme never appears in explicit st atement. It is formulated through a
6 series of complex metaphors which defy a paraphrasing of the sense into an equivalent prose. The reader is plunged into a strangely unfamiliar milieu of sensation, and the principle of its organization is not immediately grasped. The logical meaning can never be derived . but the poetical meaning is a direct intuition, realized prior to an explicit knowledge of the subject-matter of the poem. The poem does not convey; it presents ; it is not topical, but expressive (Tate, Introduction 54) In this passage several salien t attributes associated with symbolist techniques coalesce: the emphasis on suggestion and evo cation instead of direct statement, a disruption of conventional discursive and rhetorical expectations, and an extreme metaphorical compression which makes th e now commonplace New Criticisms heresy of paraphrase all but impossible. Before inve stigating the extent to which Cranes verse exemplifies and adapts these symbolist tec hniques, a fuller discussion of the qualities associated with symbolist aesthetics is necessary. A major dilemma confronts literary historians who attempt to define symbolisme or symbolist poetry. As has become increasing ly clear to contemporary literary theorists, just as there are many modernisms, slippery difficulties arise also when attempting to limit definitions of the symbolist method. Ma ny valuable critical texts like those of Balakian and Peyre struggle assiduously to de lineate (and thus, to some extent, define by confining) the qualities which distinguish symbolist poetry from other modes or historical schools of verse. For practical purposes, however, this study sh all operate with the following distinctions: 1) symbolisme derives initially from the conscious theoretical and material productions of French poets in the latter decades of the nineteenth century; 2)
7 while Edmund Wilsons suggestions in Axels Castle (1931) that symbolisme s influence during the modern period encompasses both an aesthetics as well as a method are somewhat justified, his expansiv e application of the term to prose literature--prefiguring a similar effort by Charles Feidelson in anal yzing fiction from the so-called American Renaissance of the mid-nineteenth century--n eedlessly broadens and dilutes the term so as to make it functionally ineffectual in any discussion of poetry; and 3) though symbolisme has a more narrow and specific referent in French literary criticism to those poets active in the symbolist movement fr om roughly 1885-1900, this analysis will be more concerned with the ways in which the techniques of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Mallarm were applied, adapted, modified, and interpreted by Crane and other AngloAmerican modern poets. In a further effort to narrow the focus of this inquiry, the following four salient aspects of symbolisme will receive the most emphasis: 1) a privileging of suggestion and evocation over declaration and direct statement; 2) th e disruption of syntax and conventionally rational discursive referential ity; 3) the stress on words as immanent and polyvalent symbols which accentuate the reade rs role in making the poem a system of affects; and 4) the recurrence and reiterati on of a constellation or cosmology of symbols within a poets oeuvre (both between and within poems) which highlight thematic and textual concerns. In brief, then, this di ssertation will focus on Hart Cranes poetics through symbolist lenses and will be the first to do so exclusively and on a comprehensive scale. Many critics have referred to stylistic conj unctions between Crane and the symbolists, yet most of these analyses have been marked by superficiality and brevity with respect to
8 specifically symbolist concerns. Similar critical approaches which stress Cranes indebtedness to symbolist techniques have been attempted previously and include an article-length analysis by Stanley K. Co ffman, Jr., though his treatment limits itself strictly to examining image patterns in The Bridge and scarcely proceeds beyond such generalizations as the following: Clearly this Bridge is not a symbol in the conventional sense, as an object which can, by virtue of certain propertie s, be translated into terms of an abstraction. Crane has con ceived of it rather as the French Symbolists did, working out, for example, correspondences between the object and other phenomena of the natural or civilized world, and between the object and a state of consciousness existi ng in the poet. (in Clark, Critical 142) However, Coffmans survey dates from the ear ly fifties, and subsequent readings of Crane as a symbolist poet over the next tw o decades tend to recognize yet minimize or marginalize the importance of a symbolist aesthetic in Cranes work. The analyses of Frederic k Hoffman and Haskell Bl ock are representative examples of critical readi ngs from the late sixties wh ich examine the influence of symbolisme on modern American poetry, but both conclude by elevating Wallace Stevens to the status of the premier modern American symbolist and casually diminishing the importance of Crane. Though Hoffman argues that only Stevens and Crane continue to attract attention as modern American symbolis ts, Stevens is only sporadically influenced by the symbolistes , while Crane is probably one of the great poets in modern symboliste history. . Yet, Cranes debt to symbolisme acquired at second hand, does not impress.
9 His great poetry (and he is a great poet) comes only incidentally from the symbolistes. He does not make the Verb into a deity, but strings along many allusions to sound out a vocabular y, as well as suggest charismatic intentions. (197-98) The hesitancy and qualifications in Hoffmans remarks should remind readers how far apart critical viewpoints a nd poetic productions often diverge; Cranes second-hand knowledge of the French symbolists remains di sputable, and the claim that he fails to make the Verb a deity misrepresents the inte ntions of both Rimbaud (the source of the allusion) as well as Crane. In a parallel movement, Block conducts a sustained inquiry into Stevens relationship to the French Symbolists (for eshadowing in many ways Michel Benamous 1972 Wallace Stevens and the Symbolist Imagination ) but finishes by locating Crane with Rimbaud outside the symbolist mainstream: We do wrong to both Rimbaud and Crane to view their work as essentially within the symbolist context, in spite of common elements of occultism and mysticism in the case of Rimbaud, and an awareness of the transcendent power of language in the poetry of Crane. In its open assertion of personal feeling and ex perience, and in its metaphorical fluidity, Cranes poetry represents a turning away from the symbolist tradition. (Impact 216). As for the assertion that Crane lies outside the symboliste mainstream, the personal feeling and metaphorical fluidity of Cranes poetry actually represent an extension of rather than a turning from the symbolist tradition, and th is trend toward innovation holds
10 true for Rimbaud as well. The crux of the problem here is one of perspective. The milieu in which Crane wrote, the modernist ferment of the late teens and twenties, can best be considered as the third wave of symbolism. The fi rst wave is the period of French symbolisme proper; Anna Balakians distinction re garding separate national pers pectives explains Rimbauds omission as a symbolist: French critics consider the label symbolist applicable to poets in the 15-year period of 1885-1900. Non-French critics go back to Baudelaire, Verlaine, Mallarm, and Rimbaud (Symbolism 1258). Thus in the AngloAmerican tradition, the second symbolist wave is really the fir st wave of symbolist influence in English, embodied by the Decadent poets of the ninetie s and epitomized most fully (at least for succeeding generations) by Arthur Symons whose The Symbolist Movement in Literature appeared in 1899. The revise d edition of Symons book in 1908 became the catalyst for the third wave of symbolism, the neo-sym bolist strains of modernism exemplified by Eliot, Stevens, Crane, and Yeats. W. B. Y eats, the suitemate to whom Symons original volume was dedicated, straddles both the second and third waves by refashioning his style in the teens. T. S. Eliot remarked on several occasi ons the crucial influence of Symons book on his own development as a poe t; the following passage is the most wellknown: I myself owe Mr. Symons a great debt: but for having read his book, I should not, in the year 1908, have heard of Laforgue or Rimbaud; I should probably not have begun to read Verlai ne; and but for reading Verlaine, I should not have heard of Corbire. So the Symons book is one of those which have affected the course of my life. (Review 357)
11 To understand accurately how Crane came to know and learn from the symbolists, one must keep in mind Balakians caveat: Act ually, much of what was to be known as symbolism abroad was based not on Fren ch Symbolism but on a translation or interpretation of French Symbolism that was in fact a mutation of the original. The degree of originality and deviation can be gr asped only in relation to the full texture of the original and its intention (The Symbolist Movement: A Critical Appraisal 9). In many respects, a dismissive view of Cranes achievement as a symbolist has prevailed since the late sixties, and this dissertation will work to counteract that perspective. In addition, th is project will synthesize and extend more recent critical views from the last decade which have begun, however tentatively, to recognize and explore more fully Cranes symbolist connections. Isolated sections of analyses by Irwin, Gelpi, Yingling, and Ernest Smith comment specifically on Cranes symbolist techniques, and the works of Bennett, Norton-Smith, and Ernest Smith explore the same issues at greater length and in more detail. This dissertation will differ from these latter three in that the scope will be narrower in one case and confine itsel f primarily to poetry (Bennett tries to situate Cran es symbolist inheritance alongside many other modernist movements in various arts) and more expansive in the others (Norton-Smith and Smith examine symbolist borrowings only in Cranes first volume, White Buildings in any detail). The degree of Cranes competency in French, and thus by implication the extent to which he could have in trojected symbolist technique s firsthand, remains an open question. Commentators began addressing Cran es fluency in French toward the end of his career, and out of these discussions a mi simpression formed that Cranes competency
12 in French was substandard and inadequate. This unfortunate misrepresentation has persisted ever since, resurf acing periodically with limited or partial summaries about the influence of French Symbolism on modern American poetry such as, Even American poets who knew little or no French and were relatively unfamiliar with Baudelaire or Mallarm, such as Hart Crane, assimilate d the poetics of correspondences and made bold enlargements of the planes of poetic language and experience (Block, Aspects 656). No extended examination of Cranes familiarity with French--even the one that follows-can prove conclusively any particular degree of fluency on his part or measure accurately the extent to which he relied on translations to become familiar with the first wave French Symbolists. What remains unmistakable, however, is the legacy of misleading critical exaggerations about Cranes supposed unfamiliarity with French as well as the clear series of concordances and affinities between Cranes aesthetic and poetry and those of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Mallarm. One of the first references about Cranes knowledge of Fr ench appeared in Ren Taupins landmark study The Influence of French Sy mbolism on Modern American Poetry (1929): It is significant that one of the most promis ing American poets of the Twenties, Hart Crane, came very near matching Rimbaud in his use of imagery, but hardly knew enough French to read him in the original (246). In a character istically vitriolic review of Taupins book, Yvor Wint ers responded specifically to this point: Mr. Crane, as Mr. Taupin remarks, doe s not read French, but he numbers among his friends such men as Alle n Tate and Malcolm Cowley, who know Symbolist poetry very well, a nd he has studied all the available translations. He has the greatest of admiration for Rimbaud, as far as he
13 knows him, and has beyond a doubt trie d to learn from him. But how much can he learn from him? There have been some very good translations from Rimbaud's prose a nd a few very bad translations from his verse. The vocabulary and some of Mr. Crane's work suggests somewhat the vocabulary of Rimbaud's prose and of a very little of his verse, in its quality of intellectual vi olence, of almost perverse energy; but this quality is more Mallarmean th an Rimbaldian (most of Rimbaud's lyrics, even when they are presenting a state of hallucination, or what seems such, present it in a style as limpid as the style of Shakespeare's songs or of Blake's), and the quality is not primarily Mallarmean. ( Uncollected 105) Though prone to his propensity for overstat ement, Yvor Winters remarks about the published quality of verse translations of Rimbaud before 1928 are fairly accurate. Ascribing intellectual violence or pervers e energy to the convoluted yet delicately precise formulations of Mallarm is comprehensible only from a reductively moralistic and conventionally conservative ae sthetic such as Winters. Winters met Crane in person only once: during the 1927 Christmas season. Thomas Parkinsons summary of the meeti ng is based on recollections by Winters widow, Janet Lewis: Winters was a natural pedagogue and Crane a grateful audience and interlocutor. Winters went through a considerable body of French poetry with Crane, especially Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Valry . Crane had very little French, so that Winters tr anslated passages. Janet Lewis's clear
14 impression is that Crane would have had difficulty struggling through a poetic passage with a dictionary and th at he must have got all his French through translations. (Parkinson 108-09) Apart from the passing reference in the review of Taupins book, Winters himself wrote about Cranes ability in French only one other time, in an essay twenty-seven years after Cranes death: Crane had almost no French--I spent a couple of hours one evening taking him through various poems by Rimbaud-but his friends had doubtless translated the French poets for him and described th em, and he knew the later Americans very thoroughly (Significance 127). In all lik elihood, Winters own defensiveness and insecurity regarding his own literary stature account for his bald claim that Crane had almost no French because in an earlier letter from 12 November 1926 Crane told Winters, Im not being merely modest when I say my French is weak and my Spanish nil (O My Land 285). Cranes own modesty and se nse of deference probably led Winters to presume mistakenly that Cranes fluency in French was severely deficient rather than merely weak (Igor Webb confir ms Winters imperiousness as a pedagogue). However, Winters was only on e critic among many who disc uss Cranes ability to read French. In the mid-forties, for example, Horace Gregory and Marya Zaturenska perpetuated the myth that Crane became acquainted with the French symbolists only via the translations of others: Crane formed a habit of drawing his learning from secondary sources; his knowledge and awaren ess of French Symbolism cam e from what he had read of it in translation, and with th e aid of a dictionary he painfu lly translated (in verse) three poems of Laforgue (471). These translati ons from Laforgue, Locutions Des Pierrots, were published in the May 1922 issue of The Double Dealer The suite is erroneously
15 entitled Three Locutions of Pierrot in Simons Complete Poems of Hart Crane on the grounds that the extant versions in Cran es ring notebook read this way despite the editors admission that No conclusive eviden ce suggests that HC intended the title (247). Crane included an explanatory note: A strictly literal transl ation of Laforgue is meaningless. The native implications of his idiosyncratic style have to be recast in English garments (Weber, Hart Crane 389). The note did not appear with the poems in the journal, only in the appendix of Webers monograph. The most persuasive commentary on Cranes translations of Laforgue (and his early acquaintanceship with French) comes from his friend Alfred Galpin, who knew Crane in Cleveland in 1922: The Double Dealer was published in the most French-speaking city in the United States, New Orleans. I take th is fact to be pertinent to the note which Hart attached to his translatio n . I take issue with Mr. Cowley when he remarks [Laforgue in America 65] that Harts translations . were so far from the original poems that he had to apologize in a footnote. I consider this note to be in no way a confession of failure, and if it by any chance were so intended, it w ould simply be another evidence of that tendency toward exaggerated self-deprecation which apparently misled Winters. (9) Galpins essay convincingly demonstrates a certain degree of familiarity Crane possessed regarding French, even as early as 1922. In many respects Galpins eyewitness account, Hart had a good dictionary and used it conscientiously (8), is meant to counteract assertions in the biographies of Horton and Weber and elsewhere that Cranes
16 French was somehow deficient or suffered fr om overreliance on substandard dictionaries. One such example concerns Cranes response to the anthology of French poems printed by Ezra Pound in the February 1918 issue of The Little Review one of the first exposures (apart from Symons book) to the French sy mbolists for poets of Cranes generation: Unfortunately, for Crane did not know Fren ch, the poems were not translated into English (Weber, Hart Crane 145). Another, more tell ing claim Weber makes will parallel later comments by Allen Ta te in Untereckers 1969 biography, Voyager; according to Weber, Although Crane was familiar with the Fr ench poets in translation and in criticism prior to 1920, it is fairly cert ain that he did not read extensively in the original French until the fall of 1920, when he ordered volumes of the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Vildrac, and Jules Laforgue from a Parisian bookdealer. Thereafter, howe ver, and even after his visit to France in 1929, he was unable to handle the French language with facility. He laboriously translated with the ai d of a dictionary, a process which, as Elizabeth [ sic ] Foster has noted, led to a concentration on words and phrases rather than to the overall grasp which a more developed knowledge of a foreign language provides. (Weber, Hart Crane 107) Tates 1962 interview with Unte recker stressed the same dynam ic: Crane read French, as he read most other texts, not so much for what is conve ntionally called comprehension but for what Tate calls sensibility: He didnt read, you know, for histori cal knowledge, from that point of view. He read for shock, for language. It was reading for sensibility.
17 What he could use. His instinct as a poet led him to that kind of thing. For example, he more or less iden tified himself with Rimbaud. Theres some reason for that. . But he didnt read all of Rimbaud by any means. Rimbauds awfully difficu lt and Harts French was limited. (Unterecker, Voyager 240) Tate, of course, also knew Crane personally and could attest to the veracity of Cranes facility in French, but many readers ha ve been misled by Tates insinuations in his essay on Crane that initially inspired this dissertation. In the fi rst paragraph of that essay, Tate claims, Like most poets of his age in America, Crane discovered Rimbaud through Eliot and the Imagists; it is certain th at long before he had done any of his best work he had come to believe hims elf the spiritual heir of the French poet. He had an instinctive mastery of the fused metaphor of symbolism, but it is not likely that he ever knew more of the symbolist poets than he got out of Pounds Pavannes and Divisions. (Hart Crane 310) To a large extent, Tate is right about th e important role Eliot and Pound played in disseminating the ideas of the French Symbolists in the modern period. By instinctive mastery, Tate probably means that Cranes gift for linguistic compression and what Tate calls the fused metaphor of symbolism came naturally rather than through poetic labor and refinement. This claim is an instance where Tate overstates the case; one can trace fairly clearly Cranes evolving technical skil ls as they develop over the course of his career. Moreover, Tates memory might be playing tricks on him in the reference to Pounds Pavannes and Divisions as that collection of essays makes only passing
18 references to the symbolists on three isolated, separate occasions: in providing a series of translations from Laforgues Pierrots (43-44), in suggesting a sketch of a useful anthology of French poems (109-10), and in asserting quite unsteadily that as for Remy de Gourmont, If he is grouped anywhe re he must be grouped, as poet, among les symbolistes The litanies are evocation, not st atement (127). Though the chronology would seem to belie such an inte rpretation, perhaps Tate confuses Pavannes and Divigations, the later expanded volume of Pounds which included most of these early essays, with Mallarms pros e collection from 1896 entitled Divigations In any case, the important point to recognize is that Tates early disparaging assessment of Cranes familiarity with the symbolists established a dismissive tone which has persisted among Crane scholars ever since and has obscured Cr anes real awareness of and indebtedness to the French Symbolist poets. Cranes fluency in French was probably never particul arly strong, however, and for most of his career he relied more heav ily on translations than original texts. Nevertheless, such a qualificati on does not mean Crane remained utterly inept in French; the following analysis should re ctify the extent to which cri tics have exaggerated Cranes supposed lack of familiarity with French a nd the Symbolists. In the definitive biography of Crane, Unterecker traces the poets acqua intanceship with the French Symbolists as early as his first extended stay in New York City without his parents. Crane arrived during Christmas week in 1916 and by the end of January 1917 had already established close friendships with the painter Carl Schmitt as well as poet Padraic Colum and his wife Mary. An avuncular friend from Ohio, Schmitt looked after Crane during this initial stay in New York; an enthusiastic theore tician familiar with many contemporary art
19 movements, Schmitt was instrumental in introducing Crane to symbolist concepts: Readers of Crane's poetry are usually struck by pyrotechnical displays of synesthesia. Crane studied the deliberate c onfusion of the senses in the French poets he laboriously translated, but a groundwork for the techniqu e was offered in his conversations with Schmitt (Unterecker, Voyager 57). Cranes friendship with the Colums is just as significant in indicating his early exposure to the Symbolists: At first they talked of writer s the Colums knew, and Crane was encouraged to study Arthur Symons book on the Symbolist movement. In time Crane came to use his sessions in the Colums kitchen as part of the informal education he was organizing for himself. Delighted that Mary Colum could quote whole poems in French, and entertaining her with what she felt was his queer pronunciation, he would put her through her paces on Baudelaire, Rimb aud, and Verlaine. (Unterecker, Voyager 59) While Cranes lack of formal education is often cited as proof of his supposed fractured ability to read French firsthand, one must remember that his parents intended his first year in New York to be devoted toward tutoring as preparation for entering Columbia University in 1917. While not mu ch came of his study in algebra, Cranes interest in French stayed keen throug hout the fall: He had already shown some independence by dismissing M. Tardy, his French tutor, and hiring in his place another boarder at Mrs. Waltons, Mada me Eugnie Lebgue (Unterecker, Voyager 93). On Halloween he wrote a letter with a French sa lutation to his mother: Yesterday it poured rain all day, and I remained sh eltered, studying French (Weber, Letters 10).
20 Lest it be misconstrued that Cr anes receptivity to French waned after his return to Cleveland in late 1919, Hortons biography also notes the salutary influence on Cranes development of the artist William Lescaze and his Cleveland salon formed in 1921: Many an evening passed while Crane pl ied the painter with questions about the French poets, in particular Rimbaud, whose Illuminations and Season in Hell, as they had appeared in translation in The Dial in 1920, had aroused him to intense excitement (115). Untereckers Voyager characterizes the relations hip similarly: Sometimes, driving into the country in his mothers car they would for hours wander the back roads, Crane quoting his favorite Elizabethans a nd Metaphysicals and Lescaze countering by quoting in French and then transla ting Baudelaire and Mallarm (209). Of the more than twenty refe rences to French writers or the French language in Cranes correspondence, three re main noteworthy for reveali ng Cranes enduring interest in and appreciation of French. The first da tes from 1921 when Crane replies to a letter (apparently written in French) from Gorham Munson in Europe wherein Crane not only avoids mentioning any irrita tion or difficulty with Muns ons non-English prose but actually welcomes the linguistic change: Your letter in French (w hich innovation I like) reached me yesterday, a welcome eveni ng stimulant after the days work ( O My Land 73). The second instance dates from 1929 during Cranes only visit to Europe. He initially planned on traveling to Spain in addition to England and France, but once in France his plans changed: he wrote Malcolm Cowley, Im not going to Mallorca--want to learn French and stay here ( O My Land 397). By learn French I believe Crane meant learn French better in a relative way since Cowley, who served in France as a
21 volunteer during World War I, was more fluent However, such a perspective probably only provides another glimpse of Cranes char acteristic modesty. Even Cowley admits that most of those in his circle who e xperienced a greater exposure to French read French poems with the help of a dictionary (which we were sometimes too lazy to use), that we were not at the time well versed in the rules of French prosody, and that we often misunderstood what we were reading (Laforgue in America 65). The third pertinent exam ple from Cranes correspondence that confirms his sustained attentiveness to French poetry--even after the completion of The Bridge--occurs in his application for a Guggenheim Fellowshi p in 1930. In the Plans for Study section of the application, Crane mentions French literature specifically: I am interested in characteristics of European culture, classical and romantic, with especial reference to contrasting elements implicit in the emergent features of a distinctive American poetic consciousness. My one previous visit to Europe though brief, proved creatively stimulating in this regard, as certain aspects of my long poem, The Bridge, may suggest. Modern and medieval French literatu re and philosophy interest me particularly. I should like the opportunity for a methodical pursuit of these studies in conjunction with my creative projects. (O My Land 434) Just as scholars may never answer the question why Crane relocated to Mexico instead of France once he received the G uggenheim fellowship (Malcolm Cowleys selfaggrandizing reminiscences in A Second Flowering notwithstanding), any final conclusion regarding Cranes facility in French must always remain tentative and
22 speculative. What can be demonstrated, however, is a pattern of clear affinities and resemblances between Cranes writings and thos e of the French symbolists, in particular Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Mallarm. The title of this dissertati on, Mingling Incantations, de rives from a line in an early Crane poem, Black Tambourine, a di scussion of which should illustrate my principal direction and focus. In the original version of the poem, written in February 1921, the dominant figure of a black man in a cellar is juxtaposed with gnats and a roach in the first stanza (the concluding image of a fly-in fested carcass completes the poems insect imagery) framed by Aesop, the Gr eek slave and storytel ler, in the second stanza. The second and concluding quatrai ns of the original version read: Aesop, driven to pondering, found Heaven with the tortoise and the hare: Fox brush and sow ear top his grave Even though mankind was his care. The black man, forlorn, in the cellar, Sees two ways, too, with less gay eyes. Theres a tambourine stuc k silent on the wall, And in Africa, a carcass qui ck with flies. (Weber, Hart Crane 95) What is noteworthy about the revisions Crane made between this first version and the one he submitted successfully to The Double Dealer where the poem was published in June 1921, involve the omission of interpretive elemen ts and the heightened evocation granted by having the poems subject wander through instead of see around his predicament. Wandering implies the possibility of so me sort of terminus or conclusion and introduces movement, despite its directionlessness, into the ot herwise static picture of the poem. The second version also opts to l eave seeing and connecting the disparate elements of the poem up to the reader rath er than the subject. The revised concluding
23 lines of the poems first-published version read, Fox brush and sow ear top his grave, And mingle incantations on the air. The black man, forlorn, in the cellar, Wanders in some mid-kingdom, dark, that lies Between his tambourine, stuck on the wall, And, in Africa, a car cass quick with flies. Crane made only two mi nor changes to Black Tambourine between its appearance in The Double Dealer and its eventual inclusion as the second poem of White Buildings : line two was altered from Mark an old judgment on the world to Mark tardy judgment on the worlds closed door in order to emphasize the imprisoned insularity of the black man as a represen tative minority figure (the closed door reinforces the trapped quality of the first lin es setting in the cellar) and to underscore the ongoing quality of disenfranchisement (the pr esumably condemnatory judgment is now anticipatory and tardy instead of merely persistently old). The second change, however introduces a syntactical indeterminacy which brands the poem as unmistakably symbolist, though its oblique pr esentation of theme, series of sensuously evocativ e juxtaposed symbols, and implied social critique contribute as well. By insisting on mingling instead of mingle--the shift is actually toward restoration rather than revision as he admits in one letter, I was very disappointed to find a bad typographical error in Black Ta mbourine. Mingle instead of mingl ing . How foolish it makes me feel that way! It quite destroys the sense of the thing (Weber, Letters 60)--Crane invests the final version of the poem with a sense of mystery and indefiniteness in addition to re inforcing the restless peripate tic energy of wandering as opposed to seeing. Whereas the syntax was un equivocal in the second version with the
24 funereal symbols of the fox brush and sow ear performing the incantations, in the final version line eights mingling incantations on the air seem to float suspended, disconnected almost from the immediate sens ory details throughout the rest of the poem. More subtly, the speaker has become obliquely inserted into the poem: the mingling incantations comprise a mini-e ulogy to the deceased storyteller Aesop (chosen ostensibly because the Greek writer of animal fables was also a slave who won his freedom through art). The black man as entertainer and minstrel in the popular cultural mythology of the early twentieth century is proscr ibed by social prejudices, stuck in his place just like the tambourin e, and represents one of many neglected surrogate-artist figures in Cranes work (in White Buildings, for instance, these would include William Sommer in Sunday Morning A pples, Ernest Nelson in Praise for an Urn, Charlie Chaplins tramp character in Chaplinesque and Herman Melville in At Melvilles Tomb). Crane employs the word incanta tions and implicitly attribut es these spells to the speaker in order to acknowledge a poetic gen ealogy: Cranes style is powerfully rhythmic and typically aurally driven, its start ling imagery, swelling prosody, and unusual vocabulary frequently overwhelming the audience Crane is the foremost practitioner in modern American poetry of Baudelaires evocative bewitchment of words to make the symbol open-ended in its power to signify and polyvalent in its reception (Balakian, Symbolism 1256). Crane himself said of Black Tambourine af ter the editors of The Double Dealer chose it for publication, I t surprises me to find such a Baudelairesque thing acceptable anywhere in U.S. I sent it out as a kind of hopeless protest--not expecting to see it printed at all (Weber, Letters 58). Surprisingly, no one heretofore has
25 noticed how the poems concluding image of a carcass quick with flies draws directly upon Baudelaires famous poem Une Charogne as well as imagery in the first quatrain of Rimbauds Voyelles. However, Cranes newest biographer, Clive Fisher, suggests that Black Tambourine displays a lapid ary elegance which shows Crane assimilating his poetic influences into a signature voice: Eliot and Baudelaire may have contributed to the compression and polished assurance which only weeks ago would have been beyond him but the style and author ity are the authors (121). The dissertation will deal with Cranes mixed feelings toward American culture at greater length in chapter four, but in gene ral I am less concerne d with addressing the sociological or ideological implications of Cranes vers e and more interested in examining technique and sensibility. In larg e measure, such an orientation accords with Cranes own intentions. Writing to Gorham Munson about Episode of Hands, an admittedly autobiographical poe m which was not included in White Buildings Crane suggests [I am leaving Cranes prose intact, despite grammatical and spelling issues]: The poem fails, not because of quest ions, propagandistic and economic, which you mentioned, but because of th at synthetic conviction of form & creation, which it lacks. . As it stands, there are only a few fragments scattered thru it to build on,-but I may make something of it in time. However,--if it does evolve into something,--it will be too elusive for you to attach sociological arguments to, at least in the matter of most of the details. ( O My Land 40) Crane proposed a similar emphasis of aesthetics over ideology specifically in regard to Black Tambourine:
26 The Word mid-kingdom is perhaps the key word to what ideas there are in it. The poem is a description and bundle of insinuations, suggestions bearing on the negros place somewhere between man and beast. That is why Aesop is brought in, etc.--the popular conception of negro romance, the tambourine on the wall. The value of the poem is only, to me, in what a painter would call its tactile quality,--an entirely aesthetic feature. A propagandist for either side of the negro question could find anything he wanted to in it. My only declarati on in it is that I fi nd the negro (in the popular mind) sentimentally or bruta lly placed in this midkingdom. ( O My Land 64) What interests me in analyzing Cranes neosymbolist poetics is what held the poets interest in Black Tambourine: the bundl e of insinuations and suggestions evoked by the poems incantator y, evocative style. My hypothesis is two-pronged: first, the best way to appreciate Hart Cranes poetics is in a symbolist context; analyzing Cranes evolution as an artist will demonstrate how symbolist techniques and aesthetics remain the most consistent and dominant influence throughout th e whole of his career. Sec ond, Cranes status as one of the premier neo-symbolists in modern American poetry has been obscured and misunderstood by the critical reception he ha s received, and my analysis intends to overturn this erroneous critical legacy. The dissertation will proceed as follows: chapter one will present an overview and critique of previous attempts to underst and Cranes method in symbolist terms. Primarily, chapter one will synthesize and ev aluate prior critical connections between
27 Cranes symbolist tendencies and general discus sions of the French Symbolists in regard to Cranes own development. It will also chart the evolution of the critical reception accorded Crane as a symbolist poet. Chapter two will investigate the notion of literary influence by contrasting Cranes poetic approach with that of his neares t symbolist influence, T. S. Eliot. Cranes evolving attitude toward Eliot in some ways responds to the changes in Eliots theories of poetic influence. This chapte r shows how Crane modifies and adapts Eliotic conventions, including a modern aesthetics of surrender developed from Baudelaire, and interrogates the extent to which Crane conspicuously mimics Eliots techniques while diverging significantly from the older poets ae sthetic and philosophical attitudes. Chapter three will examine the evidence which confirms Cranes awareness of and indebtedness to the French Symbolists, especially Baudelaire and Rimbaud, not only at the beginning of his career but indeed thr oughout the whole of his corpus. Readings of The Hive and Passage indicate Cranes affinities with Baudelaire and Rimbaud, respectively. Chapter four focuses on the relatively unexplored relationship between Crane and Mallarm, showing how Cranes prose--ranging from the early essay General Aims and Theories to his various corre spondences with Harriet Monroe Yvor Winters, and others to his late essay Modern Poetry--represent s the nearest body of theoretical writings by any American poet to the aesthetics of the French Symbolists. Discussions of poems such as At Melvilles Tomb and Harbor Dawn will aid in discerning parallels between Crane and Mallarm regarding the sy mbolist dream of creating an incantatory new word, the necessity of a sophisticated readership in appreci ating the shorthand
28 methods of symboliste criture, and an avowed emphasis on verse as opposed to the versifier. To summarize, this dissertation will demonstrate the centrality of symbolist aesthetics and techniqu es, epitomized most fully by Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Mallarm, to Hart Cranes poetics. Vi ewing Cranes poetry exclusively through symbolist lenses will lead to a reconsideration of his status in Anglo-American modern poetry and restore him to his rightful place as one of the premie r neo-symbolist poets of the modern period.
29 Chapter One: Hart Crane and His Literary Critics Our poetry and our prose have suffered incalculably whenever we have cut ourselves off from the French --Ezra Pound ( Selected Prose 384). The largest impediment to appreciating Hart Crane as a symbolist poet derives from the fragmentary critical attention paid to his borrowings from and familiarity with French Symbolists like Baudelaire, Rimba ud, and Mallarm. In many ways, Cranes own early development as a poet represents a cas e in miniature of the French Symbolists larger cultural influence on mode rn Anglo-American verse. Much of Cranes juvenilia undoubtedly rese mbles a blend of poetic styles drawn from the late nineteenth-century English decaden ts and modern Imagists. In fact, his first published poem, C33 (1916), is dedicated to Oscar Wilde, the title an allusion to Wildes prison cell number. As my focus is pr imarily textual and historical, let me here briefly qualify Cranes supposed affinities w ith gay writers such as Wilde, Whitman, and Rimbaud. While Crane probably felt a certai n personal sympathy with gay poets of the past, his verse-even in its early stages--is quite far removed from the epigrammatic wit of Wilde or the exuberant catalogues of Whitman, despite the allusions to both these writers in C33" and Cape Hatteras. About Wilde in particular, Crane asserted in a prose piece that after his bundle of paradoxes has been sorted and conned,--very little evidence of intellect remains ( CPSLP 199). Cranes relationship to Rimbaud, however,
30 is thoroughgoing and profound, not however on a ccount of their similar attitudes toward sexuality per se but because of stylistic similarities. The British aesthetes of the late nineteenth century like Wilde, Swinbur ne, Ernest Dowson, Lionel Johnson, John Davidson, and Arthur Symons were the first poe ts writing in English to begin consciously injecting symbolist elements into their poems, thereby forming the second wave of symbolisme (the first wave being the French Sy mbolists themselves). The traits which they most conspicuously borrow from the Fr ench Symbolists include conventionally nonpoetic subjects, an emphasis on musicality, occasionally disrupted synt ax closer to the rhythms of spoken English, and urban settings. In the same article from 1917 which fu rnishes this chapters epigraph, Pound indicates one of the reasons why the English decadent poets were linked so clearly with the French Symbolists by the modernists: The Eighteen Nineties in England were doing very much what Gautier had been doing in Fr ance in the Eighteen Thirties, and there is a fineness in Gautiers later work for which one will seek in vain among the English poets succeeding ( Selected Prose 384). The genealogy here is somewhat wayward: Thophile Gautier is the impeccable poet and perfect magician of French letters to whom Baudelaire dedicated Les Fleurs du mal A generation later Rimbaud called Baudelaire the premier visionary, the king of poets, a true god ! In addition, the French Parnassians of the mid-ninete enth century such as Gautier, Thodore de Banville, and Leconte de Lisle favored a hard pictorially dominant style and Hellenic subject matter which were revived by the Imagists. Symons finally initiated a widespread dissemination of the first wave French
31 Symbolists with the first edition of The Symbolist Movement in Literature in 1899; the second edition in 1908 served in many ways as a catalyst for the most revolutionary aspects of the modernist movement in poetry. Eliot summed up succinctly the importance of the English decadents to his generation of Anglo-American poets: What the poets of the nineties had bequeathed to us besides the new tone of a few poems by Ernest Dowson, John Davidson and Arthur Symons, was the assurance that there was someth ing to be learned from the French poets of the Symbolist Movement--and [like the English decadents] most of them were dead too. ( To Criticize 58). The modernist revolution in poetry had already been u nderway for several years by the time Crane first started publishing in 1916 yet most of his early works stylistic mannerisms derive from a blend of the nineties decadent tradition and Imagist innovations in the teens. Perhaps the most re markable aspect of Cranes development as a poet is his rapid and accelerated maturation. Crane reached a leve l of poetic maturity much faster than any of his contemporaries almost in a more precocious and complete fashion than any poet in the English traditi on besides Keats and Shelley. As his letters attest, Cranes critical acumen was always astute, even about his own work, so given his customary modesty it is not surprising that he never alluded to his own accelerated maturation. The only clue which gives some so rt of indication of Cranes awareness of his own precocity, at least w ith respect to previous poets can be found in his personal copy of The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley : After writing the date of Shelleys birth on the top of the [table of contents] page, he calculated and then noted alongside the
32 individual poems Shelleys age at the time he wrote each of them. Undoubtedly, Crane was thinking of his own poetic hopes a nd achievements (Lohf, Library 288-89). Ominously enough, considering Cranes death before the age of thirty-t hree, the list ends on Hellas when Shelley was only twenty-nine. Even though poems like C33, October-N ovember, Fear and Legende all display what Tate characterized as an a pprenticeship, To the Imagists Crane doubtless went to school in poetry. He learned their structural econom y; he followed their rejection of the worn-out poetic phrase; he must have studied the experiments in rhythm of Pound, Aldington, Fletcher (Introduction 52), these poems also demonstrate an acquaintanceship and familiarity with French poetry. The key consistent element between Cranes juvenilia and his mature verse is its allegiance to symbolist tenets. Indeed, apart from Pounds Hugh Selwyn Mauberly or Eliots The Hippopotamus or a direct translation, Cranes L egende is as near to the sensibility and substance of Gautier as one can find in English (in fact, Cranes poem is nearly contemporaneous with these pieces by Pound a nd Eliot; the publication of Legende in November 1919 actually predates these other, more famous poems). Unlike Mauberly or The Hippopotamus, though, the last line of Cranes Legende al ludes directly to Gautiers maux et Cames, the countercurrent remedy Pound claims he and Eliot prescribed to themselves in the late teen s for their reaction agai nst the dilution of vers libre, Amygism, Lee Masterism, general floppiness ( Letters 180). Like the central figure in Baudelaires La Beaut, the central feminine figure of Legende is unattainable:
33 The tossing loneliness of many nights Rounds off my memory of her. Like a shell surrendered to evening sands, Yet called adrift again at every dawn, She has become a pathos,-Waif of the tides. The sand and sea have had their way, And moons of spring and autumn,-All, save I. And even my vision will be erased As a cameo the waves claim again. (148) The earliest critical reference to connect Crane with the Symbolists occurred in the first essay ever writte n about the poet: Hart Crane: Young Titan in the Sacred Wood by his friend Gorham Munson. M unson begins the essay by redirecting a suggestion from Maxwell Bodenheim that a cr itic should write on poets before they publish a first volume; instead, Munson laments, editors refuse to publish criticism on young poets who lack a full book. A parentheti cal insertion supposedly documents the date and late delivery of Munsons effort: I am deliberately letting this essay stand as it was written in the winter of 1925. . Of course, I was unable to publish this essay in any of our magazines (161). The remark was prophetic in many respects, for Crane encountered numerous publishi ng difficulties throughout his ca reer. Munsons essay was finally published in the collection of essays Destinations in 1928; however, either the authenticity of the claim of no revi sion or the 1925 date seems suspect. After debunking Bodenheims superficial legend that he is a contemporary Rimbaud in favor of recognizing Cranes bold and brilliant contrast (thus implicitly hailing Crane as an authentic contemporary Rimbaud), thr oughout the rest of the essay Munson refers to Crane as tw enty-eight years old, providing the first instance of what
34 would become a standard critical chr onology of Cranes artistic development: From sixteen to twenty-eight Crane has developed from a rich almost gaudy imagism (see October-November in the Pagan Anthology) through an elegant derivation from symbolism (see In Shadow in the Little Review December, 1917) and then th rough poems dealing with isolated emotional themes in which he was discovering his own music and idiom to Faustus and Helen in Secession number seven, his first symphonic and metaphysical work. (163-64) Few critics, though, are as bol d in concurring with Munsons stupendous assessment: at sixteen [Crane] was writing on a level that Am y Lowell never rose from and at twentyeight he is writing on a level that scarcely any other living American poet ever reaches (164). Since Crane was born in July 1899 with wh at he called a little toe-nail in the last century ( O My Land 85) and would have been only twenty-six in 1925, Munson more than likely revised some portion of the ear lier essay--at minimum the references to Cranes age--before its final publication in book form in 1928. The likely composition of the essay can be dated with greater accuracy: when Crane wrote Otto Kahn requesting fina ncial patronage for help writing The Bridge on December 3, 1925, the poet included three Statements on my writings from Waldo Frank, Allen Tate, and Gorham Munson (these statements must have been personally solicited as none of these wr iters had yet written--or at least published formally--on Crane). By March 5, 1926, Crane asks Munson to mail along your comments on Crane and requests frankness in responding ( O My Land 231). Cranes lengthy reply is dated
35 March 17, 1926, so in all likelihood the essays composition originates within that threemonth span (though if Munsons admission about the date of composition is credible, the essay must have been written in the last few weeks of 1925). Apart from the implicit link with Rimba ud in the essays introduction, Munsons only direct comparison between Crane and any French Symbolist poet occurs near the conclusion in a discussion of the poets inabil ity to sustain a high degree of intensity or heightened emotional ecstasy. According to Munson, Crane exhibits a tendency in his writing to oscillate between a description of his personal wretchedness of life and the moments of supernal beauty he experiences. This sort of psychological game Verlaine played to exhaustion and a young poet might well shudder from repeating it (176). Cranes epistolary response to this specifi c objection touches on one of the key critical misprisions which would hamper the critic ism of writers who knew him personally: What Im objecting to is contained in my suspicion that you have allowed too many extra-literary impressions of me to enter your essay . The same is true of your reference to the psychological gaming (Verlaine) which puts the slur of superficiality and vulgarity on the very aspects of my work which you have previously been at pains to praise.--And all because you arbitrarily propose a goal for me which I have no idea of nor interest in following. . Certainly this charge of alternate gut ter sniping and angel kissing is no longer anything more than a meretricious substitute for psychological sincerity in defining the range of an artists subject matter and psychic explorations. ( O My Land 234)
36 Throughout his career, Crane consistently co mplained against reviewers who permitted extra-literary impressions to intrude on their readings of his poems. To this charge of alternate gutter sniping and angel kissing, one recent critic frames the issue in terms of the conflict between th e poets aims and those of modern culture: Crane rejected the assumption in Munson's letter [sic] that some clearly delineated system of metaphysical belief need inform a modern poet's work, and he suggested that his visi on of the modern world rejected systematics. . he suggested that the conceptual and linguistic liminality of the modern world ought to solicit from the writer doubtful speculations rather than a simple, programma tic affirmation. (Yingling 159) Furthermore, Crane also quite frequently resent ed critics proposing mistaken aims to his poems; Crane saved his most bitter retort in this regard for Yvor Winters after a vicious review of The Bridge (Vivian Pemberton first publishe d the missing letter in 1978): you ascribe, again and again, quite di fferent objectives on my part than anything said in the text could reason ably warrant. You then, on the same basis, pronounce the performance botched, and end up with a prognosis that is more pretentious and weightier than need be. Thus you can count nine as many times in succession as you like. But that doesnt prove that there was anyone in the ring. People cant be said to fail in matters they never thought of undertaking. ( O My Land 428) One of the most ironic asp ects of the earliest reviews of Crane lies in this misapplication of exterior aesthetics to an appreciation of his poems. In part, my
37 emphasis on symbolist aesthetics and techniques means to offs et this bias. Just as frequently, Cranes reception also has suffe red from an overdependence on personal elements in interpreting his poems. The reviews of The Bridge in particular suffered from this sort of imbalance; as Unterecker noted in an intervie w with Karl Piculin, People who were close to Crane had a hard time keeping up with where the poem was at let alone where it was going. Private knowledge got in the way of detached judgment (Piculin 185). The marked formalism in their appr oach along with the autotelic expectations which the New Critics associated with all lite rary works of art somehow were abandoned in the most influential contemporaneous revi ews of Cranes poems. While such a bias may derive from larger cultural ideologies with regard to sexuality, as Yingling suggests, those critics we now consider exem plary of New Criticism in America found it virtually impossible truly to se parate the literary work from its author. The questions of literary me rit and personal character informed one another for them, and, at least in Cranes case, fear, confusion, and misunderstanding of homosexuality accounted for some of the moral and psychological sanction placed on his work, (60) the same sort of misguided moralistic criticis m has been leveled at symbolist poetry for quite a long time. The most glaring nineteenth -century examples of such restrictive and narrowly bourgeois approaches, of course, w ould be the 1857 prosecution of Baudelaire for obscenity in Les Fleurs du mal and Max Nordaus ridiculous Entartung (Degeneration, 1892-93) that concluded the Fr ench Symbolists had in common all the
38 signs of degeneracy and imbecility which was so effectively blasted as nonsense in G. B. Shaws The Sanity of Art in 1895 (Scott 276). Nevertheless, a few words are now necessary to explain why Verlaine remains the only one of the big four French Symbolists left untreated in my analysis. Though many of Cranes poems display a mellifluous cont rol of sound and center around heightened moments of ecstatic illumination like the vers e of Verlaine (as Munson noticed), very little evidence of any di rect influence can be found in Cran es poems. Partly this lack of immediate confluence is due to Cranes preferen ce for regular metric structures such as blank verse, ballad stanzas, and end rhyme. Though previously unremarked, many of the free verse experiments by the turn-of-the-centu ry English decadents and early Imagists derive from French models inspired by Ve rlaines experiments in prosody. The only critical instance I know of which addresses this issue occurs in Margaret Fosters unpublished dissertation: the group of Parnassian poets in its attempt to revolutionize the somewhat diffuse Romanticism within the narrow limits of a plastic approach corresponds roughly to the part the Imagist movement played in the rejuvenation of American poetic technique (107-08). More importantly, however, most of Verlaines poems rely heavily on sound effects and echoing rhythmic variations for th eir lustre, and for this reason very few successful translations of Verlaine have been achieved in English. The relatively sedate moods of most of Verlaines poems also would not have appealed enough to Cranes more vigorous and raucous sensibility to prom pt him to read the Frenchman very closely in the original. Thus a difference in temperam ent and lack of a high degree of fluency in
39 French (along with the absence of successful translations) impede d Cranes appreciation of Verlaine or at least prev ented any long lasting cross-fert ilization from one poet to the other. Still, early Crane poems su ch as Annunciations, Echoes, and Modern Craft all reveal a delicate pictoria l quality and decadent subject matter that remind one of Verlaine, particularly in the imagery of lines such as The sound of a doves flight waved over the lawn, your arms now / Are circles of cool roses, and Still she sits gestureless and mute, / Drowning cool pearls in alcohol ( Complete 139-42). The nearest example of a direct confluence between Verlaine and Crane occurs in In Shadow, the earliest published poem (1917) which Crane chose to include in his first volume, White Buildings (1926). The last stanza of In Shadow shimmers like a transmutation of Verlaines Colloque sentimental and reveals a feature of Cranes art whose significance grows as his talent ripens: a dialogic component. Resembling many of Verlaines early poems, In Shadow is a mood piece whose atmosphere cultivates the sensuous air of a man and womans rendezvous in a garden. Unlike many Imagist poems, however, the superficially static descriptions in the first three quatrains are infused with a sense of restless yet subd ued energy and movement: Out in the late amber afternoon, Confused among chrysanthemums, Her parasol, a pale balloon, Like a waiting moon, in shadow swims. Her furtive lace and misty hair Over the garden dial distill The sunlight,-then withdrawing, wear Again the shadows at her will.
40 Gently yet suddenly, the sheen Of stars inwraps her parasol. She hears my step behind the green Twilight, stiller than shadows, fall. ( Complete 13) In addition to the pervasive sense of exp ectant yet repressed se xuality throughout, the imagery in the second stanza in particular bo rrows from Eliots La Figlia Che Piange: Lean on a garden urn-/Weave, weave the sunl ight in your hair [Weber claims the two poems bear comparison in mood ( Hart Crane 45)]. The concluding stanza, however, looks like a rearrangement of the conclusion of Verlaines Colloque sentimental and imparts a similar sense of mystery and inconclusiveness: Come, it is too late,-too late To risk alone the lights decline: Nor has the evening long to wait,-But her own words are nights and mine. (13) Compare the concluding lines of Verlaines poem: --Qu-il tait bleu, le ciel, et grand, lespoir! --Lespoir a fui, vaincu, vers le ciel noir. Tels ils marchaient dans les avoines folles, Et la nuit seule entendit leurs paroles [--How blue the sky was then, and hope beat high! --But hope fled, vanquished, down the gloomy sky. Even so they walked through the wild oats, these dead, and only the night heard the words they said. ( Selected 87)] Both poems conclude with indefinite mysteriousness a nd uncertain expectations, though In Shadow is situated so that th e night itself has become an observer or participant in the lovers encounter. Despite the apparent attitudina l concord between the three characters of Cranes poem, the urge ncy and ominous last line of the womans
41 speech leave the poems conclusion in a suspended state, suffused with an air of desperation and indecision. The dialogic qual ity of having a speaker interrupt the poems lyric voice becomes one of Cranes favorite te chniques, and as his control grows more assured his use of the device grows subtler and harder to pin down to some easy set of preconceived dialectical forces--even when th e intruding speaker is the lyric voices own anguished wit in The Wine Menagerie or the speaker turns se lf-questioning in My Grandmothers Love Letters and Pastorale. J. T. Barbarese calls this dialogic structural principle an antiphonal exchange . each a c onventionally framed firstperson meditation that erupts into punctuated dialogue between Hart Crane and his better or recollected or experimental selves (424). Robert Martin is one of the few Crane scholars who connects Verlaine and Crane, arguing that the conclusion of My Grandm others Love Letters, (And the rain continues on the roof/With su ch a sound of gentle pitying laughter) reveals how The influence of Verlaine on this poem of 1919 is striking. One hears clear echoes of the fifth Ariette oublie , with its piano que baise une main frle , and, of course, the famous third Ariette , Il pleure dans mon coeur/Comme il pleut sur la ville ( Martin 123). The first critic to frame Cranes poetic achievements in broad symbolist terms is probably his most perspicacious reader: Allen Tate. As my introduction indicated, Tates foreward to White Buildings shrewdly charts Cranes development as fully assimilating and then surpassing early Imagist influences by forging a method which employs Rimbauds oblique presentation of theme. Additionally, Tate intimates the degree to which Crane has assimilated some of th e French Symbolists: Although Crane is
42 probably not a critical and syst ematic reader of foreign liter atures, his French is better than Whitmans; he may have learned something from Laforgue and, particularly, Rimbaud (Introduction 54). The essays conc lusion further locates Crane in a symbolist genealogy by remarking on his chief poetic fault: The vision often strains and overreaches the theme. This fault, common among ambitious poets since Baudelaire, is not unique with them. It appears whenever the existing poetic order no longer supports the imagination (Introduction 55 ). Tates introduction to White Buildings was so thorough and penetrating that many reviews of the volume merely recapitulate Tates main observations, or as Clark sa ys, reviewers grabbed onto it ( Critical 6). Even the self-assured Winters admitted in his review of White Buildings that it is irritating to be forestalled by an introduction that is, for once, thoroughly competent ( Uncollected 47). Tate continued to write on Crane for more than thirty years, and in almost every case he sees symbolist technique s as one of the most prominen t features of Cranes style. In what became his standard treatise on The Bridge, which appeared in Essays of Four Decades as a combination of the revision of an initial review of the poem in Hound and Horn and a response to Hortons biography in the mid-thirties, Tate again links the poets aims with those of Rimbaud: Crane instin ctively continued the conception of the will that was the deliberate discovery of Rimb aud. A poetry of the will is a poetry of sensation, for the poet surrenders to his sensations of the objec t in his effort to identify himself with it, and to own it (Hart Crane 321). This notion of surrender remained a key concept for modern American symbolists, one examined in greater detail in chapter twos discussion of Eliot.
43 Tates original review of The Bridge appeared in Hound and Horn in 1930. Near the conclusion, Tate deprecates the lyrical eclecticism of the poems style (implicitly faulting Crane for failing to produce a historical epic): Cranes vision is that of the naturalis tic, romantic poet, and it vacillates between two poles. A buoyant optimism of the Whitman school and the direst Baudelairean pessimism exist si de by side, unfused. The effect of that section of the poem intended as an Inferno, The Tunnel, is largely nullified by the anti-climactic lapses into an infernal vision in the midst of panegyric. ( Poetry Reviews 103) Most of The Tunnel is hardly buoyant or optimistic, though th e hushed apocalyptic tones of its conclusion hold open the possibility of some sort of co llective redemption or salvation as a prelude to the fi nale of Atlantis. Moreover, most of the fragmented and horrifically nightmarish subterra nean world of the subway in The Tunnel is positioned about as far from panegyric as any episode in The Bridge except perhaps for the gestures toward the maternal washerwoman and some Word that will not die. . ! at the climax. The supposedly optimistic impulses of what Tate calls the Whitman school are themselves called into doubt in the only sec tion of the poem which alludes to Whitman in any way--Cape Hatteras--whose central symbol is an airplane. While a grain of truth lies inside Tates snide assertion that the civilization that contai ns the subway hell of The Tunnel is the same civiliz ation of the airplane that the poet apostrophizes in Cape Hatteras. There is no reason why the subway should be a fitter symbol of damnation than the airplane: both were produced by the same mentality on the same moral plane
44 (Hart Crane 319), such a reading misperceive s how the airplane functions as a dynamic symbol in Cape Hatteras: as the poem progresses, the twinship of the Wright windwrestlers from Kitty Hawk becomes perverted into an engine of war and destruction--New latitudes, unknotting, soon give place/To what fierce schedules, rife of doom apace! (79). Tates assertion implies that any apostrophe contains within it some positively charged value toward the object thus addressed, but the anguished frustration of the speaker in Keats Ode on a Grecian Urn helps remind one how lopsided such a view can be (Paul de Mans sustained inquiri es into the vagaries and boundlessness of prosopopoeia lead in the same direction). The airplane as dominant symbol of Cape Hatteras ends not as some object of singular reverence feeding off the excitement of flight--Seeing himself an atom in a shroud--/Man hears himself an engine in a cloud! (78)--instead, the plane as an instrument of war ends as mashed and shapeless debris....the beached heap of high bravery! (81). Whitmans role in the poem is important as a portent of Americas future potential; the speaker of Cape Hatteras ca lls to Whitman at the poems conclusion to see! The rainbows arch--how shimmeri ngly stands/Above the Capes ghoul-mound (84). In Cape Hatteras the airplane holds only the potential to become a hopeful image of Easters of speeding light (83); within the milieu of The Bridges twentieth-century America, however, the planes telos in the poem is a heap of crashed wreckage. Nevertheless, Tates main poi nt in comparing Rimbaud and Crane in his initial review of The Bridge is a valid one (an observation which recurs throughout Tates criticism): there is a similarity to the impulse of Une Saison dEnfer ; but there is a
45 difference which is fundamental. Rimbaud ach ieved the mixed and disordered surface of the poem by means of a process of delib erate dissociation. Crane begins with dissociation and tries to organize his pattern ( Poetry Reviews 103). The problem Tate points to is not so much persona l as cultural and historical. To skeptical minds at least, the chaotically disparate culture of twentie th-century America seems too fragmented and multifarious, too resistant in its diversity, to be melded into one representative vision. Crane himself was quite aware of this di fficulty, as he confessed while plagued with doubts in the weeks before most of The Bridge was written: The validity of a work of art is situ ated in contemporary reality to the extent that the artist must honestly anticipate the realiz ation of his vision in action (as an actively operati ng principle of communal works and faith) . I had what I thought were authentic materials that would have been a pleasurable-agony of wrestling, eventuating or not in perfection--at least being worthy of the most supreme efforts I could muster. . however great their subjective signif icance to me is concerned--these forms, materials, dynamics are simply non-existent in the world. I may amuse and delight and flatter myself as much as I please--but I am only evading a recognition and playing Don Quixote in an immorally conscious way. The form of my poem rises out a past that so overwhelms the present with its worth and vision that Im at a loss to explain my delusion that there exist any real links between that past and a future worthy of it. ( O My Land 258-59)
46 In several discussions of Cranes poetics Tate cites the lack of a stable, unified cultural system as a chief impediment to any epically conceived conceptual artistic production in the modern world. His introduction to White Buildings characterizes the difficulty modern poets face by comparing th eir tasks to Dantes: The important contemporary poet has the rapidly diminishing privilege of reorgani zing the subjects of the past. He must construct and assimila te his own subjects. Dante had only to assimilate his (Introduction 53). Tate return s to the Dante comparison in his composite review of The Bridge: In the great epic and philosophi cal works of the past, notably The Divine Comedy the intellectual groundwork is not only simple philosophically . we are given also the complete articulation of the idea down to the slightest detail, and we are given it objectively apart from anything that the poet is going to say about it. When the poet extends his perception, there is a further extension of the groundwork ready to meet it and discipline it, and to compel the sens ibility of the poet to stick to the subject. It is a game of chess; ne ither side can move without consulting the other. Cranes difficulty is that of modern poets generally: they play the game with half of the men, the men of sensibility, and because sensibility can make any move, the significance of all moves is obscure. (Hart Crane 315-16) Tates position on this question of cultural fragmentation and the obstacle it poses for modern poets stayed consistent throughout his career, perhaps most evident in his
47 contributions to The Fugitive and as a member of the Agrarian movement. Nonetheless, while his early reviews of Cr ane hold up the poet as an exemplar of this artistic difficulty (and implicitly fault Cr ane for not working harder to overcome this impediment), Tates 1952 essay Crane: The Poet as Hero, subtitled An Encomium Twenty Years Later, returns to a comparison of Rimbaud and Crane within the context of cultural disunity. In the intervening decades, Tate has come to recognize that Cranes attempt to achieve the impossible--what is char acterized in the earlier essay as Perhaps this disunity of the intellect is responsible for Cranes unphilosophical belief that the poet, unaided and isolated from the peopl e, can create a myth (Hart Crane 317)-represents a significant achievement by stri ving to overturn the ubiquitous sense of alienation among modern artists: The Bridge is not in intention a poem of rejection, in the tradition of Rimbaud, but of acceptance, an attempt to assimilate a central tradition (Crane: The Poet as Hero 327). By 1956 when Tate co-edits an anthology of American poetry from 1900-1950, his view has evolved so that he interpre ts the essentially symbolist approach of poets like Crane and Stevens as the most innovative means for trying to come to grips with the cultural disorder of modernity: The best American poets (Crane is one of a handful) . have used a certain mode of perception . a hyperaesthesia that began with Poe and Baudelaire and that produced in our generation catachreses like Cranes O thou steeled Cognizance whose leap commits/The agile precincts of the larks return . This controlled disorder of perception has been the means of rendering a direct impression of the poets historical situation
48 (Reflections 66-67). Most of Cranes early, academica lly oriented readers maintain this earlier position of Tates, summarized most succinctly perhaps in R. P. Blackmurs disapproving contention that Crane used the private ly ric to write the cultural epic (126). Blackmurs 1935 analysis became a New Critical touchstone of Crane criticism for many years; he too argues, if only implicitly, that the poets symbolist techniques were misapplied in the epic construction of The Bridge: Crane had the sensibility typical of Baudelaire and so misunderstood himself that he attempted to write The Bridge as if he had the sensibility of Whitman. . Baudelair e had at his back a well-articulated version of the Catholic Church to control the mora l aspect of his meanings, where Whitman had merely an inarticulate pantheism (124). To the extent that readers consider The Bridge falling short of being a complete success (and Blackmur first famously called Cranes achievement the distraught but exciting sple ndour of a great failure , an epithet and evaluation which still persis t), Blackmurs assessment still stands as one of the most representative views of how to interpret Cranes symbolist approach as being at odds with his supposed aesthetic goals: In Crane's case, the nature of the influences to which he submitted himself remained similar from the beginning to the end and were the dominant ones of his generation. It was the influence of what we may call, with little exaggeration, the school of tortur ed sensibility--a school of which we perhaps first became aware in Baudelaire's misapprehension of Poe, and later, in the hardly less misappreh ending resurrection of Donne. Crane
49 benefited, and was deformed by, this influence both directly and by an assortment of indirection; but he never surmounted it. He read the modern French poets who are the result of Ba udelaire, but he did not read Racine of whom Baudelaire was himself a product. (127) Undoubtedly, Blackmurs comments on Cranes actual use of symbolist techniques are some of the most astute anywhere and will be addressed in chapter three. As for the case of Cranes imperfect know ledge of literary history, this charge is yet another example of academic prejudice marring an appreciation of Cranes poetry. Cranes first critical readers like Munson and Tate made similar comments; Munsons essay, the earliest organized critique, blun tly admitted that Crane does not know enough (172). Such criticism, especially given the poets lack of formal education, has dogged Cranes reputation. In fact, he addresse s this issue--within a specifically French context even--in the first lett er he ever wrote to Tate: Certain educated friends of mine have lamented my scant education, not in the academic sense, but as regards my acceptance and enthusiasm about some modern french work without havi ng placed it in relation to most of the older classics, which I havent r ead. . Nevertheless, my affection for Laforgue is none the less genuine for being led to him through Pound and T. S. Eliot than it would have been through Baudelaire. (O My Land 85) Cranes reply, of course, involves a bit of game smanship as he was already quite familiar with Baudelaire, though certainly less so w ith the French classi cal writers of the
50 seventeenth and eighteenth century such as Molire, Racine, and Voltaire. Strangely enough, one of the earliest discussions of Cranes debts to symbolist poets comes from a Frenchman: Ren Taupins LInfluence du symbolisme franais sur la posie amricaine (1929) examines Cranes relationship to the Symbolists in its concluding discussion of young American poets in the twenties: The more active younger poets, such as E. E. Cummings, Hart Crane, Allen Tate, and Malcolm Cowley, became skilled at adapting French technique s to suit their own purposes (246). For Taupin, Cranes style is the most im portant of all in that period: The most prominent French influences to be seen in Cranes work were those of Laforgue and Rimbaud in the moments of vision and illumination. . Crane did not pu sh the rational di sordering of the senses to the extreme point, as Rimb aud did; his images were kept under the control of his will; but there is no question that he saw in Rimbauds A Season in Hell and Illuminations the models which be st suited his own talent. (248-49) By and large, Taupins anal ysis is sound in citing R imbaldian-flavored passages in Repose of Rivers, For the Marriage of Faustus and Helen II, and Voyages II, as well as in his conclusion: The best of [Hart Cranes] poetry possessed all the qua lities of the new style; he had profited from the example of Eliot and from that of the best French Symbolists, and in this pr actice the poetic phrase had become almost a solid object, the image a brilliant splash of color, the form a free
51 and harmonious fluency, the whole poem a durable creation. (250) Despite Henri Peyres qualifications con cerning Taupins assertions of symbolist influence in modern American poetry, It is too easy to affirm influences, and even imitation, while there were at most affinities, and it is a bit unfair to take advantage of this or that overly generous declaration by American poets, taken with France or preferring its literature to their own, long less po lished, to enlarge their debt to the France of symbolism. This is somewhat what has been done by Ren Taupins intelligent but too hasty boo k on the subject, which today needs to be rendered more precise and better balanced, (149) Taupins analysis still seems va lid, at least in the main with respect to Cranes symbolist techniques. However, Taupins assertion th at Crane came very near matching Rimbaud in his use of imagery, but hardly knew enough Fr ench to read him in the original (246) is infected by the genera l myth of Cranes supposed ignorance of French. Yvor Winters pounced on Cranes defic ient French in a contemporaneous review of Taupins book (see pages 12-14); Wint ers gasping analysis lampoons what he labels automatic writing: [Mallarm ] used the method, but with greater circumspection than Mr. Crane or Mr. Joyce. His logic can almost al ways be discovered; what seems an evasion of logic into pur e obliquity, often turns out to be mere periphrasis ( Uncollected Essays 107). Winters views remain askew from his own stubborn insistence that the modernists use of non-discursive tec hniques--by poets like Eliot and Crane--owes its origin to a method adapted from the disreputable characters
52 from Ben Jonsons The Alchemist Winters pursues this track more than likely due to Cranes epigraph to For the Marriage of Faus tus and Helen, and in some ways such an orientation accounts partially for the hyperra tional vagaries of Winters misreading: their [i.e., modernists like Eliot, Joyce, and Crane] tortuous efforts to raise the [Jonsonian] conventions adopted to the leve l of universal morality have been an interesting but also a dist ressing spectacl e (142). The connotative slurs surrounding the word spectacle become one of the chief ordinances in Winters attack on modernist poets like Crane. Wi nters employs similar phrases to conclude his rigidly mora listic and unsympathetic review of The Bridge: one thing he has demonstrated, the impossibility of getting anywhere with the Whitmanian inspiration. No writer of comparable ability has struggled with it before, and, with Mr. Cranes wreckage in view, it seems unlikely th at any writer of comparable genius will struggle with it again ( Uncollected Essays 82). Earlier in the sa me review, Winters paid Crane a left-handed compliment, saluting the po ets ability while nastily denigrating his particular performance: we are analyzing the flaws in a genius of a high order . But the flaws in Mr. Cranes genius are, I believe, so great as to partake, if they persist, almost of the nature of a public catastrophe (Uncollected Essays 77-78). As for Taupins mistaken view that Crane relied only on translations in his exposure to the French Symbolists, Babette Deutsch noted more soberly in the midthirties that There are several passages in The Bridge which read like a fulfillment of the extravagant prophecies of Rimbaud, whom Cran e professed himself unable to read in the original (a piece of mockery which one is at liberty to doubt) (143). Though Deutsch
53 assumes a certain degree of familiarity be tween Crane and Rimbaud, she also makes a point of aligning their similar techniques: I n its ecstatic rhythms, its swift, kindling images, its semi-colloquial, el liptical notations of the actual scene as it crowds upon a shelterless sensibility, Cranes work testifie s to the kinship between two men separated by the barriers of race, country, time, and circum stance (144). Deustch is also one of the first to note the source of one of Crane s borrowings from Rimbaud: she traces Cranes image in The Tunnel of love being reduced to A burnt match ska ting in a urinal to Une Saison en enfer : The force of this passage is not lessened because it recalls, in its juxtaposition of ugliness and ecstasy, no less than its exact refere nce, Rimbauds: Oh, the little fly, drunk at the tavern urinal, amorous of borage, and which a ray of light dissolves! (229-30). While a feeling of di sgust pervades both images, Crane actually used the word borage in an earlier poem, Lachryame Christi, where degradation becomes a means toward enlightenment: Let sphinxes from the ripe/Borage of death have cleared my tongue/Once and again ( Complete 19). Sherman Paul noted the possibility of this same derivation in Harts Bridge (116), though like Deutsch he cites the translation from Edgell Rickwords 1924 Rimbaud rather than Watsons 1920 translation in The Dial which renders the line Oh! The little fly drunk at the inn jakes, amorous of the borage, and which a ray of light dissolves! (A Season in Hell 18). As for Deutschs assumption that Cranes claim of being ignorant in French was a piece of mockery, I know of no public document by Crane which professes such a stance; a more apt characterization, despite its reference to the same statement by Crane [perhaps she has in mind his admission to Winters Im not being merely modest
54 when I say my French is weak and my Spanish nil ( O My Land 285)], comes from Fosters 1940 dissertation: His own statement that he couldn t read [French] at all is absurd in the light of cold fact. He tuto red in the subject during the autumn of 1917, but when his copies of the French moderns ar rived late in 1920, he depended heavily on the dictionary and probably never got entirely away from its use (76). Fosters analysis of Crane s relationship to French, an d to Rimbaud specifically, is one of the most insightf ul and understanding ever atte mpted; it is unfortunate the dissertation was never rewritten as a book, but in spite of this fact many Crane scholars have continued to refer to it. Her examination of Cranes translations of Laforgues Locutions des Pierrots probably lands as close as possi ble to the root of the question surrounding Cranes facility in French: his comprehension when unaided by English translation was likely to be s potty and to focus on words a nd images rather than on the core of meaning (78). Apart from the extremely valuable poem-by-poem and sometimes line-by-line comparisons of images between Rimbaud and Crane, Fosters study also reveals how a less than thorough know ledge of French could still have led Crane to reinterpret and extend the ra nge of Rimbauds poetic innovations: Rimbaud does not present the syntactical difficulties of Laforgue and that sensing the color and movement of Bateau ivre and of Les Illuminations goes a long way toward their apprecia tion, particularly if the reader, a visionary himself, recognizes his own affinity with the tradition. A large part of the Rimbaldian text as it appeared in the French must have been imperfectly comprehended by Crane, but he read it sufficiently well that,
55 aided by intuitive response and community of spirit, he grasped the power of the imagery and the quality of th e vision. So will a strong natural vibrato help to conceal the violin ists technical weaknesses, thus contributing to the achievement of an authentic musical interpretation. (79) Unavoidably, Fosters an alysis depends heavily on Hortons 1937 biography. Hortons biography, though the closest chronologically to Cranes lifetime, itself depends fairly exclusively on Cranes letters and the remembrances of Cranes mother, Grace Hart Crane, so its analysis is not as impartia l as one might expect. In addition, Horton generally minimizes the importance of French writers on Cranes early development as a poet. Hortons description of Cranes efforts at translation sounds overgeneralized and almost trifling: Sporadically, he was also working on translations from the French: De Gourmonts Marginalia on Poe and Baudelaire, and poems by Vildrac and Laforgue. Even though he considered this a pastime and confessed to constant use of a French dictionary, he still felt that his strong sympathies with these poets qualified him as an interpreter. (97) While Hortons contenti on that Crane felt strong sympathies with the Symbolists is incontrovertible, the refere nce to a translation of de Gourmonts Marginalia persists as another unsolved myster y in Crane scholarship. The Horton reference probably is based on a Crane lett er from September 1921 during a creatively fallow period: I am too uneasy to accomplish a thing, but hammer out a translation of de
56 Gourmonts marginalia on Poe and Baudelaire for The D.D. [the journal The Double Dealer ] (Weber, Letters 64). This prose translation either never materialized or was somehow lost; no proof of its existence, apart from the allusion in the previous letter, has ever been found, and the manuscript does not ap pear in nor is it re ferred to in Webers Prose Writings of Hart Crane, Kenneth Lohf s The Prose Manuscripts of Hart Crane: An Editorial Portfolio, or Lohfs authoritative Literary Manuscripts of Hart Crane. The expanded treatment of Brom Webers 1948 biography improved on Hortons work by bringing critical analysis to bear on Cranes poetic achievements within a biographical context and included valuable appendices as well: uncollected poems, uncollected prose, and drafts of Atlantis, the finale of The Bridge. Weber was the first to identify how the painter Carl Schmitt helped young Crane develop beyond an imitative mlange of Imagist techniques by reading the French Symbolists instead, though Weber claims, An affinity with the Symbolists was inevitable for an indi vidual of Cranes lush emotional nature (38). Annunciations, another early poem not included in White Buildings is distinguished by The juxtaposition of disparate detail and allusion [which] must be united in the reader's mind, a charac teristic of Symbolist poetry and a chief device of the mature Crane (46). Weber also aptly claims Porphyro in Akron employs Baudelairean lines (89), though the poems s ubject matter, rather than style, seems closer to Baudelaires Tableux parisiens such as Le Crpuscule du Matin and Le Crpuscule du Soir . Apart from Fosters unpublished disserta tion, Webers book also offered the first sustained discussion of Rimbauds in fluence on Crane. Though dependent on
57 generalizations, Webers summary is valid by and large: in Rimbauds life there exist many aspects which Crane found to be duplicated in his own; that Rimbauds aesthetic theory was amenable to someone of Cranes temperament, ideas, and ambitions; that Rimbauds poetry constituted a high point to th e equalling of which a poet might well devote himself; that Rimbauds spirit was one with which Crane felt a powerful affinity. More specifica lly, Crane did employ the method of Rimbaud; and there is in his poetry much of the symbolism, imagery, and vocabulary of Rimbaud, although transm uted and re-worked in accordance with an individuality that is unmistakably Cranes own (149-50). However, Webers chronological account of Cranes exposure to Rimbaud contains a couple of slips. First, while We ber reasonably concedes that It is probable that Cranes first direct acquaintance with the poetry of Rimbaud came from an article by Ezra Pound . in the February 1918 issue of The Little Review , he also assumes, Unfortunately, for Crane did not know Fren ch, the poems were not translated into English (144-45), which ignores the fact that Crane began studying French formally the previous year. Second, the same misimpressi on about Cranes French ability informs Webers presumption that The opportunity to read the writings of Rimbaud in a quantity sufficient for Crane to understand the man and in a language he could understand was provided by J. Sibley Wa tsons article on Rimbaud in The Dial of
58 June 1920. This article was followe d in the two succeeding issues by Watsons translations from Rimbauds Une Saison en Enfer and Les Illuminations. (145) Such a claim, in addition to its unsteady premise about Cranes deficient fluency in French and a misattribution of Some Remarks on Rimbaud as Magician to Watson instead of W. C. Blum, also ignores what Foster calls the unnecessarily mussy and uninspiring prose translations from Illuminations by Helen Rootham nearly two years earlier in the July 1918 issue of The Little Review (Foster 99). While Foster supposes Crane may have read Roothams versions, Since these translations appeared before the period of Cranes active interest in Ri mbaud, they probably did not get more than passing attention from him at the time (99), Crane almost certainly read them because his own letter to the editor, his second pr ose publication entitled Joyce and Ethics, appeared in the same issue! Pointedl y, Cranes piece rejects grouping Joyce with Swinburne and Wilde as decadent writers but agrees to let Baudelaire and Joyce stand together . The principal eccentricity evinced by both is a penetration into life common to only the greatest ( CPSLP 199). In some ways, the publicatio n of Webers generally laudatory biographical study signalled a wider rehabilitati on of Cranes career and of The Bridge in particular. Oscar Cargills analysis of Crane in 1941, although loosely categoriz ing the poet as a belated figure of stylistic decadence, hastily concl udes that Cranes met hod and talent are too studiously derivative: Poetry was never com posed more deliberately than Hart Crane composed it--in deliberate imitation of Art hur Rimbaud (275). Cargills case for
59 resemblances is flimsy; he also thoroughly misunderstands Cranes aesthetic theorizing about the logic of metaphor and the dynamics of inferential mention, but he draws somewhat valuable though loose connections between Crane lines and poems by Poe, Mallarm, Laforgue, and Eliot (276). After praising the engulfing experience of The Tunnel, Cargill goes on to cite The Bridge as one of the great poems in contemporary American literature in terms that emphasize symbolist techniques li ke synaesthesia and the juxtaposition of suggestive imagery: The very luxuriance and abundance of America are further suggested by the imagery of the poem. The rapidly varying subject matter, the rush of one experience into another, the ci nema-like shift of scene--all these evidences of unexampled richness ma ke the Rimbaud-like collations of words more plausible. Synesthesia fo r once is amply justified: the reader feels that in this instance hostile words must adhere--it is part of the essential compression of the poem. (279) Almost a decade later Southworth also claimed Cranes images account for no small part of his worth as a poet(169), but th at critics analysis stays mostly superficial and repetitive. While his acknow ledgment that Such obscuriti es as there are [in Cranes poetry] arise from compression rather than from confusion of thought, Southworth is one of the earliest critics to apply explicitly the biographical fallacy: A second or third reading resolves most of them; a knowledge of the biographical facts integral to the poem removes all but a few (160). The same narrow, moralistic reductivism which marred New Critical evaluations like those of Tate, Winters, and Blackmur continue to haunt
60 readings of Crane, often sounding most egre gious and inaccurate when conducted from a psychoanalytical perspective: "The symbol s Crane made are in a way inbred or incestuous in that their accessi bility to the public in an emotional way depends centrally on the public's familiarity with Crane, the man" (Bleich 89). Cranes symbolist techniques, allied with his aim of constructing absolute poetry, lie about as far as possible in their layering of de nse textual structures from a ny sparse, skeletal information biographical accounts might furnish. Although Stanley Coffmans 1951 article on Crane closes by insisting that While the qualities of the symbol do not evenly permeate the poem, while the symbol itself betrays its confusion, one ought not attempt an estimate of The Bridge without understanding Cranes grasp of a fundame ntal Symbolist technique (in Clark, Critical 144), his analysis restricts itself to charting the cross-references of colors and symbols in Cranes epic poem. Nonetheless, some crit ics in the fifties began to advance a more positive and balanced view of Cranes work. Some of the most useful insights into Cranes relationship to the Symbolists and hi s use of their techni ques occurs in a 1950 essay by Barbara Herman. Herman is the firs t critic to cite the only place in Cranes prose (in the essay Modern Poetry) wher e he alludes to the French Symbolists specifically as a group; she conn ects his technical interest in the related arts of painting and writing with the spiritual underpinnings in most of his work: Even the influence of the French Symbolists on Cranes aesthetic theory was directed by his metaphysical orientation. Cranes own co mment on the Symbolist movement is extraordinarily illuminating with respect to the values para mount in his own work (55). While she
61 overstates the religious orient ation of Cranes verse, Herm ans awareness of how Crane adopted and extended symbo list techniques remains extremely valuable, including a heuristic emphasis on the reade rs importance: If his poetry were not to be entirely private, uncommunicable experience, as much Symbolist poetry was, symbols had to be chosen that would rebound on the readers c onsciousness. The effort required was not slight, and the audience had necessar ily to be a sophisticated one (57). Hermans operating assumption that symbolist poems primarily convey utterly private experiences is a distor tion, certainly, but her analysis of Cranes chief methods of linguistic displacement remains one of the most cogent and persuasive: The principles of this displacement were two: distortion or syntactical displacement, and the packings of meanings by juxtaposition, either through compression or contiguity--the lo ading of the word or series of words with as many references, in the sense of color, emotional implication, and psychological ambiguity that it could hold. The unit was the word, and, like the spot of color in pointillism, that word could be altered in various ways by the othe r words placed around it. These aims were not in themselves original with Crane, nor, in any sense, outside the tradition of English and C ontinental verse from which he derived. It was his special application of these pr inciples, however, which supplies the unique tone to his poetry. His chief method may be termed cross-hatching of reference. (61) Hermans analysis yields many insights, especially when she deduces that Crane
62 essentially expands upon and modifies sym bolist techniques. Leonard Unger and William Van OConnor conducted a similar clos e reading of Voyages II in their 1953 textbook Poems for Study in order to observe how it exhi bits the influence in modern poetry of the French literary movement called symbolism, for which they supply a laundry list of symbolist ch aracteristics shared by Crane and Mallarm: finding unusual relationships betw een objects; making evocative statements as opposed to explicit st atements; explori ng the connotative meanings of words rather than relying on denotative meanings; exploring the range of associations both personal and general, implicit in a coherent body of imagery; depending upon syn aesthesia, or the unifying and exchanging of sense impressions; an d moving from meaning to meaning within the poem by relying on associati on rather than stri ct logic. (637-38) The close reading Unger and OConnor conduct enlarges the sort of analysis Herman only sketches. Moreover, Herman s emphasis on spirituality, the assumption that Crane really write s as a frustrated priest trying to realize God through poetry, seems misplaced (later critics like Alfred Hanley and Sister M. Bernetta Quinn--even Robert Combs and Helge Nilsen, to a certain extent --would extend a spiritual perspective into full-length treatments of The Bridge, yet these readings rarely focus on technical considerations). Hermans conclusion, though, as far as it goes, is revealing: In spite of his preoccupation with the state of consciousness he was temperamentally incapable of satisfaction with the merely symbolist poem. Symbolism for Crane, or ra ther those elements of Symbolism
63 which he extracted for his own use, were in a sense a relig ious substitute. He abstracted his symbols into the most economical expression in words; he juggled those words until they w ould support and amplify one another; he built upon them and concretized them to a point of treating them as a reality in themselves. (65-66) Crane himself addressed the r eligious motive in his work in a letter to Herbert Weinstock after a favorable review of The Bridge wherein he disavows any particular spiritual orientation in his writing; neverthe less, Crane remained aware of how easily his poems could be interpreted fr om a religious perspective: the essential religious motive throughout my work . commits me to selfconsciousness on a score that makes me belie myself a little. For I have never consciously approached any subj ect in a religious mood; it is only afterward that I, or someone else ge nerally, have noticed a prevalent piety. God save me from a Messianic predisposition! ( O My Land 426-27) The religious dimension of Cranes work manife sts itself most prominently in his choice of vocabulary and the occasionally Christian rhetorical sweep of some of hi s lines. In General Aims and Theories Crane tried to situate his use of religious terminology within the context of twentieth-century American culture: It is a terrific problem that faces the poet today--a world that is so in transition from a decayed culture toward a reorganization of human evaluations that there are few common terms, ge neral denominators of speech that are solid enough or that ring with any vibration or spiritual
64 conviction. The great mythologies of the past (including the Church) are deprived of enough faade to even launc h good raillery against. Yet much of their traditions are operative still. ( CPSLP 218) Trying to account fo r Cranes aims in writing The Bridge within a mythic or spiritual context led to a large-scale crit ical reevaluation of the poem, and of Cranes career, in the sixties. L. S. Dembos Hart Cranes Sanskrit Charge is a touchstone for this brand of reconsideration, and Dembo trie s reconcile Cranes symbolist techniques with the larger aspirations of The Bridge: Poems like Possessions and Voya ges, in which the poet-voyager reaches a belle isle of the imagina tion wholly beyond the world, indicate that Crane had strong symboliste inclinations--that he was not prepared to compromise his personal vision (the pure possession) with an insensitive society and that he was willing to accept isolation. . But the fact is that Crane could not accept isolation and that he tried to work out a vision in which a personal notion of Absolute Beauty became effective for the whole of industrial civilization, and the isolated lyricist, preoccupied only with his own imagination, found a ro le in society as a seer. (7-8) For Dembo, Crane is largely successful in adapting symbolist conve ntions to a larger social vision in The Bridge, though Dembos skepticism regarding explanations of the dynamics of inferential mention and the logic of metaphor becomes an impediment to a full understanding of Cranes methods: d espite all his theorizing about a special logic of metaphor . .Crane di d not write in a language radica lly different from that of
65 other symbolist poets (41). While Dembo notes a Rimbaldian approach in Passage, his analysis of Cranes specifically sy mbolist techniques rarely proceeds beyond statements buried in footnotes such as, The re are, of course, overtones of Rimbaud in much of the imagery in The Dance (78). All in all, though, Dembos attempt to understand Cranes methods on their own terms served as a harbinger of more symp athetic and inclusive readings. Kenneth Rexroth noted in two essays from 1961 that Cranes adoption of Rimbaldian techniques in Voyages represented a high water mark of the influence of French poetry on American artists: [Crane] never learned to speak more than a few words of French, but his Voyages are the best recr eation of Rimbaud that exist in English and his whole life was a sort of acting out of Bateau Ivre (161). Despite Rexroths own misunderstanding of the Crane myth (along with its assumpti on of no firsthand familiarity with French) and a reliance on the distortions of a biographical approach, his insistence on the success of Cranes carrying over of Rimbaud into m odern American English in the essay The Poet as Translator is accurate: Sympathy can carry you very far if you have talent to go with it. Hart Crane never learned to speak French a nd at the time he wrote his triptych poem "Voyages" he could not read it at all. . his image of Rimbaud was an absurd inflation of the absurd R imbaud myth. Yet "Voyages" is by far the best transmission of Rimbaud into English that exists. (189) Paradoxically, even as critics began to appreciate The Bridge on its own merits and to understand how Cranes symbolist tech niques functioned within the poem, many
66 continued stumbling over Cr anes theorizing about the logic of metaphor. Roy Pearces The Continuity of American Poetry in 1961 condescendingly accuses Crane of being more interested in the magic of word s rather than in constructing some sort of contemporary myth of America and misappr ehends the poets own awareness of the efficacy of the symbolist method: He discovere d that the possibiliti es for inflection were limitless; he could put words in unusual contexts, work variations on their usual syntactic functions, create a grammar of his own. But he st eadfastly believed that in this attempt to transform language, his role was passive (103). Pearces presumption of the p assive role of the poet, of course, shoots quite wide of the mark, at least with regard to how Crane conceived of his own poetic practices. Fellow-poet Robert Creeleys 1960 e ssay hits nearer to appreciating Cranes technical development: As his critics have remarked, Crane l earned a great deal from the French Symbolists, and much of his early work is dominated by what he learned. . The point is that Crane had become at first a poet by way of a poetry dependent on irony, on the dissociations possible in the very surfaces of language, on a quick and nonpassive verbalism which was in direct opposition to anything then evident in E nglish or American poetry. . .But it is Crane's development away from the Symbolists, and their dependence on irony in particular, that lead s to the later style. (81) Decades afterward, Langdon Hammer would note how Crane differed from other modernists by adopting a high style blended of Elizabethan conventions and symbolist
67 mannerisms without ironically contextualiz ing such borrowings in typical modernist fashion: Cranes poem boldly distinguishes itself from other m odernist texts by its refusal to ironize, qualify, or bracket (pl ace into quotation marks) the high style it appropriates (Hammer 132). Critics in the sixties were the first to pay attention in a sustained way to Cranes use of symbolist techniques, though few directly cite any Fr ench poets. Samuel Hazos 1963 monograph Smithereened Apart focuses on how even early Crane poems purposely omitted discursive connectors: It is left to the imagination of the reader to supply the many transitions that Crane deliberately omitted (24). But whereas Hazo praises the virtuosic symbolist qualities of Cranes poems which make legitimate demands on the reader, The serious reader must attune himself to them as he must attune himself to the very texture of Cranes developing vocabulary, which is as much concerned with a words pigment and sound as with its mean ing (36), R. W. B. Lewis finds Cranes characteristic condensed omission of c onnectors more troubling since it baffles primarily through an excess of insinuated mean ing. . .These clusters and patterns have not, as I have said, been su fficiently fused by Crane's shaping power; there are gaps between them across which the critical mi nd has to pass unaided (141-42). David Clarks 1963 essay Hart Cranes Techni que begins with similar complaints: Every poet distorts accepted idiom and syntax and finds rich images and metaphors in order to enforce attent ion and to widen implication. But Hart Crane carried these techniques to an extreme, often astonishing and confusing the reader. Term and refere nt become indistinguishable. One
68 cannot tell the central point from the circumference to which the imagery has expanded it. One is afraid that there are many centers and many circumferences, arcs whose circles are not completed within the poems subject or whose center-points lie outs ide that subject, thus disintegrating the poems total effect. ( Lyric Resonance 137) In a slim 1963 Twaynes Series monograph, Vincent Quinn recommends rereading to untangle occasional obscurities in Cranes poems but misa pprehends the experiential process involved: His imagination was vividly responsiv e to the associations of images: connotations that often lie below th e threshold of consciousness. He thought and felt in images; his references to a logic of metaphor accurately describe his intellectual equipment. Moreover, he believed poetry to be the concrete evidence of an experience The poet was not to tell about an experience but to convey it to the reader in the sensual terms in which he had received it. (31) Joseph Riddels 1966 essay on Cr anes poetics of failure also recognizes the symbolist roots of Cranes method, While the symbolis t poem should ideally conclude with vision or silence, with new anatomies evoked, th e modernist poem must celebrate victory in defeat, yet Riddel glibly dismisses Cranes ap proach as inherently frustrated and selfdefeating; since Crane refuses to divorce issu es of identity from history like Whitman, Stevens, or Eliot, self-destruction is the inevitable result of such a method: the only possible solution to the poetics of failure, which is essentially the
69 minority report upon symbolism, is some kind of post-symbolist adjustment. . For a poet like Crane, however, there is ultimately no resolution: neither the broken world in to which he falls nor the pure world he envisions is convincingly real for him, and hence no reconciliation of the two suffices, even were it possible. (in Bloom, Hart Crane 102, 108) Nevertheless, Lewis full-leng th study in 1967 signaled a ge neral shift in the late sixties toward considering Crane within a symb olist context. Lewis presents sympathetic explications of Cranes method, examining th e intense contextual pressure the poet brings to bear on phrases and sometimes ev en single words (50). Lewis perceptive analysis of Cranes theorizing about the logic of metaphor is quite apt: The poet's task, one makes Crane out to be saying, is to release the connotative meanings and insinuations of words, sometimes the mere edges and margins of their customary meanings; and to control and intensify those connotations by binding them together--make them work upon each other--by means of metaphor, the great binding instrument of the poetic art. (205) While Lewis pays close at tention to the details of Cranes poems, Herbert Leibowitz stays more attuned to the larger im plications of Cranes symbolist method. On the subject of direct influence, for example, Leibowitz claims, Crane learned from Eliot and the French Symbolists the habit of dr opping out transitions a nd logical connectives and choosing words for their sonority or sensuou s allure. . Cranes originality lies in his ability to induce words to create a ne twork of meanings, something akin to a
70 chromatic scale of moods (24, 53). Taking a cue from Cranes theorizing about the logic of metaphor, Leibowitz describes the dominant symbolist method of Cranes poems as one of weaving, of following a word or image through its successive protean changes: This technique depends for its success on the spacing of connotations in irregular patterns throughout the poem; the words themselves are not split into emotive and mental units, but the reader picks them up as they impinge on his consciousness and lets them reverberate ag ainst each other (95-96). Leibowitz, in fact, is one of th e first critics to refer to Crane consistently as a symbolist. On the subject of disrupted s yntax, for example, Leibowitz admits that Though not invented by the Symbolist poets, this attitude toward syntax permeates Symbolist poems (166). He posits that mode rnist poets like Eliot, Stevens, and Crane adopt the techniques of symboliste criture into English poetic forms as a way of expanding the poets range of expressive possibilities: In his desire to present his networ k of relations and his contradictory feelings, without the intrusion of edit orial comment, the modern poet tends to create a novel structure for each poem. He is willing to allow a certain amount of blurring when it is the e ffect of other virtues--vividness, musical effects, and discontinuity, for example. If he deserts traditional syntax, or dislocates it, he is not necessarily bein g capricious. (166) A year earlier than Leibowitzs monograph, Frederick Hoffmans 1967 essay Symbolisme and Modern Poetry in the United Stat es also characterized Crane, along with Wallace Stevens, as one of only two m odern American poets who derive from, or
71 acknowledge, the French Symbolists and attract attention for their continuing value (197). Although Stevens is only sp oradically influenced by the symbolistes , Cranes situation is different: he is probably one of the great poets in modern symboliste history. He forces, rather crudely, words to beco me metaphysical realities; he poses the chiffonier the pitre, against Mr. Fat of Long Is land; he sees lines and significance in the clown, in Charlie Chaplin, in the man who cowers in the dark corner of the urban inferno. More than that, he has Mallarms trust in the magically transcendent quali ty of words . .Yet Cranes debt to symbolisme acquired at second hand, does not impress. His great poetry (and he is a great poet) comes only incidentally from the symbolistes. (Hoffman 197-98) The misplaced stress on Cranes second hand familiarity with the French Symbolists should be obvious; additionally, Hoffmans re marks are so sketchily drawn that one wonders why claiming that Crane does not ma ke the Verb into a deity (198) would justify characterizing his achievements as merely incidentally symbolist. R. W. Butterfields 1969 book on Crane acknowledges th e poets debts to the French Symbolists by way of Eliots infl uence, albeit in generic terms: In the case of the French Symbolists, he delighted in Rimbauds synaesthetic devices, the basis upon wh ich he erected his own logic of metaphor, and in Laforgues ironic c oncept of the clown as hero, a figure whom Crane early apotheosised in his Chaplinesque of 1921, but who
72 continued to hover in the background of numerous later lyrics. (247) Yet Butterfield frequently avoids deciphering the dense surface text ure of Cranes poems within a symbolist context on any consistent basis. Despite a fairly lengthy analysis, Butterfield repeatedly claims Cranes dens ity of allusion and symbolist compression fail as often as succeed; according to Butte rfield, the most complex poems in White Buildings leave the poet in danger of making a fetis h of his logic of metaphor, cultivating a privacy of allusion or a multipli city of connotation for the sa ke of extravagance alone (110). Crane often struggled against such charges of obscurity from lazy readers. In some ways, John Untereckers 1969 biography Voyager recapitulates many of the critical advances in the sixties toward appreciating Cranes style as symbolist. In addition to tracing Cranes early exposure to French Symbolist influences, Unterecker summarizes Cranes shift in poetic techniqu e which became characteristic of much of his best verse from 1921 on: It was, to oversimplify, the imposition of a metaphysical technique on poetry that was written from a sy mbolist point of view. Its subject matter was almost always drawn from contemporary American life. Its imagery, though public enough, was frequently charged with private significance (228-29). For Unterecker, Cranes mature poetry displays a textual significant denseness resulting from a complicated formal structure, a structure compounded from rhymes and near rhymes, carefully adjusted rhythms, intricate multidimensional puns, and a system of deliberate echoes, repetitions, and cross references (229). Along with Jules Supervielle and Osip Mandeltam, Crane is held up as one of three modernist heirs of the symbolists --called Post-Symbolists--in James Kugels
73 1971 The Technique of Strangeness in Symbolist Poetry While Kugel notes that Symbolism as a dominant poetic movement had waned by the time Crane first began publishing, Cranes career demonstrates t he extent to which Symbolism has been absorbed by Modernism and has become a part of the landscape (107). On the question of obscurity, Kugel claims that Post-Symbo lists (or what I term in Cranes case NeoSymbolists) differ from the French Symbolists by attempting to theorize a certain level of competence and involvement by the reader: For the new generation the role of th e reader assumes more importance, perhaps because of--or in sympathy w ith--the criticism of Symbolisms disregard for the reader, which began to appear in the late 1890s. The new poets were no longer interested in proclaiming poetrys independence of the reader, but rather in discoveri ng what demands could be placed on him. (91) This emphasis on the receptivity of the reader lies behind Kugels paradoxical assertion that Symbolism for Crane was La forgue and Rimbaud, not Mallarm and the literary cnacles of the 1880s, even though in a la ter footnote Kugel admits, Not surprisingly, much of Cranes mature poetry also resembles that of Mallarm and Roux in its density of allusion, and such poems as At Melvilles Tomb have a particularly Mallarmean air about them (93, 100n.8). Kuge l also offers an elementary contention that Black Tambourine bears a close structural relations hip to Rimbauds Le loup criait but solely on the basis of a reliance on abrupt shifts in diction and tone to imply parallelisms and restatements (101).
74 Sherman Pauls 1972 Harts Bridge reiterates Hermans earlier claim that Cranes method more nearly resembles that of a cubist rather than a symbolist, but Paul relies for proof exclusively on Haskell Bl ocks contention in the 1970 essay The Impact of French Symbolism on Modern American Poet ry that Crane and Rimbaud are outside of rather than extensions of the French Symbolist tradition. ( Harts Bridge 303n.50) Besides the dubious insistence that In its open assertion of personal fe eling and experience, and in its metaphorical fluidity, Cranes poetry repr esents a turning away from the symbolist tradition (216) which I account for in the introduction, Blocks essay only addresses Cranes debts to the Symbolists in a short di scussion of Legend and Garden Abstract: These poems are not typical of Hart Cranes early manner, which was at once more personal and more turbulen t in imagery than we may find in either symbolist or Imagist poetry, but Crane was a highly eclectic poet and both of these styles enter to some extent into his art. Imagism, like symbolism, came to be rapidly assi milated into the resources in both theory and technique available to th e modern poet, and the two tendencies often intersect in the work of poets who were neither symbolists nor Imagists in any strict sense. (Block, Impact 177) Ren Welleks historically oriented and more inclusive 1970 assessment seems more prevalent today: only two Americans livi ng then in England, Ezra Pound around 1908 and T. S. Eliot around 1914, reflect the French influence in significant poetry. More recently and in retrospect one hears of a sy mbolist period in American literature: Hart Crane and Wallace Stevens are its main poets ( Discriminations 99).
75 Despite its extremely impr essionistic, occasionally de rivative, and generally speculative approach, Pauls book-l ength analysis is one of the first critical attempts to account for Cranes use of a Ri mbaud line as the epigraph to White Buildings : Crane used it for its resonance--not so much to identify with Rimbaud, though it enables him to, as to suggest the spiritual adventure in te rms of which he organized the book (95). Pauls demand for a cubist orientation, how ever, prevents him from pursuing Cranes symbolist connections apart from isolated instances such as noting a resemblance in the phrase New thresholds, new anatomies fr om The Wine Menagerie: One hears Rimbaud's O saisons, chteaux! in Crane' s line (125n.76). In anot her footnote, Paul contends that Crane, of course, was fam iliar with Mallarm's notion that poetry fashions a single new word which is total in itself (297n.37), yet Paul furnishes no supporting evidence beyond the surface similariti es between Cranes General Aims and Theories and Mallarms Crise de vers (Mallarms essay is neither named nor cited beyond the phrase above). Eric Sundquist finall y makes such an attribution in 1977 in a footnote: Though Crane presumably borrows his single new word from Mallarms theory of musical incantation in Crisis in Poetry a passage in Paters Plato and Platonism (which Crane in a letter singled out fo r praise) provides a similar version of symbolist doctrine (399). Gregory Zecks 1979 Freudian reading of the logic of metaphor in The Wine Menagerie also relies h eavily on Pauls purely specu lative suggesti on that two characters in the poem represent father a nd mother seen from the distance of childhood (Paul, Harts Bridge 123). Yet the Oedipal frame of Zecks analysis fails to
76 account for many details of the poem, ignores Cranes homosexuality, and implicitly misapplies a quotation in a 1920 letter where Cr ane hints at working on a new piece in conventional form about a child hearing his parents quarrelling in the next room at midnight ( O My Land 40) since The Wine Mena gerie was composed in 1925-26. Pauls reading diverges even more widely a nd links the quotation with The River, first published in 1928: what the poet he ars in the sounds of trains has as much to do with his as with the American past since In his boyhood and youth, Cran e often traveled by train with his mother (Harts Bridge 213)! Unfortunately, the tr ain rider in The River remains in second person throughout the poem, explicitly not the first-person speaker. Two articles in the early seventies, one intimatel y personal and the other bibliographic--Alfred Galpins A Boat in the Tower: Rimbaud in Cleveland, 1922" and Kenneth Lohfs The Library of Hart Cr ane--provide direct evidence of Cranes familiarity with French and with the Symbolists in particular, so it is disappointing to see subsequent references repeatedly stressi ng the uncertainty of Cranes linguistic competence such as M. D. Uroffs hesitant qualification, Although it is not clear that he knew enough French to be essentially influenced by him, Crane is closest in his vision to Rimbaud and behind him Baudelaire (109), or William Van OConnors claim that Cranes symbolist adaptations remain restricted to his early development: The important matter is that Crane, whether from direct readings in Rimbaud or Laforgue (Tate, his friend, said he read some French, though neither critically nor systematically) or from Edith Sitwell, Stevens, or Eliot, developed a style indebted to the Symbolists. . Crane,
77 undoubtedly, needed to discover the Sy mbolists in order to free his imagination. Once he had learned th e possibilities in his medium, he no longer needed them as models. (78-79) While OConnor unnecessarily truncates the pe riod of Cranes symbolist inclinations, Hart Crane, though he read French only slightly, studied Rimbaud and Laforgue. By the time his "In Shadow" was published in the Little Review in 1917, Crane had passed beyond imagism and had become more of a Symbolist. . In "Voyages II," for example, some of the techniques and effects developed by certain Symbo lists are readily evident, (73) at least he provides a reasona ble, if somewhat sequentially and developmentally limiting, explanation of how modernis ts incorporated symbolist elements into their poems: By the Symbolists, words were used not for their representational value but to create states of mind. . Th e use of all known objects as symbols with private meanings and significances was the first major step toward the obscurity that became a distingui shing characteristic of Symbolist poetry. The next step was the endeavor to employ synaesthesia, whereby all sense perception is interchangeable and unified. The third step was to dispense with logical sequence, in order to allow the extra-rational faculties and experiences full play in poetic expression. (67-68) Galpins personal reminisces directly address Cranes facility in French and respond directly to Yvor Winter s charge in reviewing Taupi n that Crane does not read French (Uncollected Essays 105):
78 The testimony I shall later quote from Tate and Cowley should in itself suffice to dispel the notion that Cr ane did not read French, but such notions die hard, and I can adduce ev idence from personal experience. I can also respond to Mr. Winterss rath er strange inquiry about how much Crane can learn from Rimbaud (in 1931), by shedding some light on how much he had already learned in 1922. (Galpin 3) Galpin readily admits that as a twenty year-old, Baudelaire and Verlaine, still vaguely considered symbolists, were my own favorites in 1922. . I was drawn [to Cleveland in June] in part by my admiration for the translations th at [Samuel] Loveman made of these symbolist poets, in the manner of our idol Arthur Symons. I do not recall that either Loveman or myself expressed at that time any special interest in Rimbaud. However, within a week or ten days after arriving, and meeting Hart--although I had certai nly arrived with little Rimbaud in mind and none in my baggage--I had completed [a] translation of Bateau Ivre. (5) In addition to providing a copy of his youthful translation of Rimbauds masterpiece, Galpin acknowledges Cranes help and advanced familiarity: Such Rimbaud lore as I had when I came to Cleveland was probably derived from the same major source as Crane: the generally excellent translations, mainly prose, of the Illuminations and Saison en Enfer published in the Dial two summers previously. . Unlike Crane, I had no
79 knowledge of the famous Study in French Poets which Ezra Pound had published in the Little Review of February, 1918. . At any rate, from our first acquaintance Hart and I joined forces on Rimbaud--in the French. (5) If unregenerate skeptics st ill suspect that Galpins personal experiences by themselves do not provide enough evidence of Cranes thoroughgoing study of French Symbolist writers--including the admission th at Hart had a good dictionary and used it conscientiously (Galpin 8)--Lohfs 1973 T he Library of Hart Crane supplies incontrovertible proof of Cranes early a nd meaningful exposure to the first-wave Symbolists. The previous year Lohf presente d an editorial portfolio which examined the bibliographical remnants of Cranes uncollect ed prose wherein Lohf remarks, Cranes fascination with words is evident in his poetr y. Like the symbolists, his choice of words relied heavily on their musical and associa tional values. It was the evocations and overtones of words that interested him (Prose Manuscripts 29). Lohf rightfully deduces that one can date relatively accurately Cranes early exposure to the Symbolists in the original French: In a letter to his mother, dated 28 September 1917, the poet signed his name Hart instead of Harold for the first time. Because of the change in his name, it is possible to identify, from among the books in his library, those which he owned and read before the age of eighteen. Crane nearly always signed his full name in his books, and he frequently added the date on which he acquired it. (Lohf, Library 287) The pre-1918 books include J. MacLaughlins Nouveau Vocabulaire a translation
80 of Jules Romains, and French texts by Char les Clment, Victor Hugo, mile Verhaeren, and an anthology edited by Grard Walch. Lohf cites Walchs Anthologie des Potes Franais Contemporains: Le Parnasse et le s coles Postrieures au Parnasse (18661914) as especially important: In 1917 he bought MacLaughlins Nouveau Vocabulaire and the Walch Anthologie, evidences of his interest in studying and reading the French writers, particularly the poets, in th eir original language. . Important clues to his reading of individual poems can often be found in the contents pages of collected ed itions of poetry. . .In Grard Walchs Anthologie des Potes Franais Contemporains he checked the numerous French poets in whose writings he was interested and whose poems he probably read. Since individual works by most of these authors do not survive in his library, it is important to know with which French poets he felt the closest affinities. (Library 288) The Walch book is signed in ink Hart Crane 1917," contains annotations to poems by mile Verhaeren, Jean Moras, and Gabriel Vicaire, and shows conclusively Cranes familiarity with French nineteenth-century poets: The following authors are marked with a check in the Table Gnrale des matires, pp. 563-64: Thodore de Banville, Henri Barbusse, Henry Bataille, Charles Baudelaire, Henri B eauclair, Paul Bourget, Franois Coppe, Alphonse Daudet, Ernest Dupuy, Paul Fort, Thophile Gautier, Andr Gide, Paul Haag, Gustave Kahn, Jules Laforgue, Leconte de Lisle,
81 Jules Lematre, Maurice Maeterlinc k, Stphane Mallarm, Catulle Mends, Stuart Merrill, Jean Mor as, Sully Prudhomme, Ernest Raynaud, Henri de Rgnier, Adolphe Rett, Jean Richepin, Arthur Rimbaud, Georges Rodenbach, Edmond Rostand, Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve, Albert Samain, mile Verhaeren, Paul Verlaine, Francis Viel-Griffin, and Villiers de lIsle Adam (Lohf, Library 330-31) Among other books in Cranes surviving library which cannot be dated prior to 1918 are French texts by Guillaume Apollinaire, Rmy de Gourmont, Victor Hugo, Jules Laforgue, Stphane Mallarm, and Charles Vi ldrac, in addition to C. A. Chardenals Complete French Course and two anthologies edited by Lon-Adolphe GauthierFerrires: Anthologie des crivains Franais du XIX e Sicle: Posie. Tome II (18501900) and Anthologies des crivains Franais Contemporains: Posie (Lohf, Library 300-30). John Irwins 1975 article N aming Names: Hart Cran es Logic of Metaphor presents one of the most succinct interpretations of the poets symbolist method, substantially extending and supplementing previous readings by Tate, Herman, and Lewis. Even Irwins general comments reveal significant new perspectives on how Crane adapts symbolist conventions: for Cran e one of the major forms of metaphor is a special kind of nominalization --the production of elliptical noun phrases that represent on the level of surface form the embedding of multiple metaphoric relationships (Naming Names 290). Without employing conventi onally symbolist terminology or even referring to a single symbolist writer, Irwin nonetheless accura tely identifies how Cranes
82 lexical compression works toward constructing a countermimesis which is symbolist to the core: Whether as in adagios of islands a new complex name is created for love, or as in surfeitings an entirely new word is formed whose meaning is a multiple of the two older words it fuses, language in Cranes poetry attempts to break a purely mi metic relationship to the external world and to establish in its place a creative relationship wherein the conjunction or juxtaposition of words on the basis of wholly linguistic features enables us to build new relations between the things they name. (Naming Names 295) Richard Suggs 1976 book on The Bridge makes a similar claim that the surface texture of Cranes poems is self-reflexive. Sugg was also the first critic to declare prominently that The Bridge is about the poetic act rather than the action of the poet as a person in the world (3), yet such a view limits the poems parameters, ignoring too many of the descriptive features of most of the poem and holding up consistently only in Atlantis. Though Sugg also makes no references whatsoever to the symbolists, even in a discussion of Cranes aesthetic s, his underlying view of the poet is not too far from my own in one major respect: as C lark sugge sts, Sugg turns Crane into the ultimate modernist poet, in the sense of the poet w ho is the culmination of the symbolists tendency to make the world of the poem itself the only reality (29). Eric Sundquists 1977 Bring ing Home the Word employs a loosely jointed scaffolding of psychoanalysis and cultural theo ry to arrive at a similar conclusion:
83 the poet acts as a detective become criminal: the search for the Word entails a seizure of power, but one in which the poet conceals (indeed, represses) certain evidence and covers the traces of his crime by rewriting himself into the script in a positi on of authority, by relocating within himself the Word which he seeks. (379) But Sundquists theorizing never accounts for the symbolist bedrock beneath Cranes methods. By contrast, Francis Fikes 1977 S ymbolic Strategy in Repose of Rivers specifically considers whethe r reading this poem through symbolist lenses may reveal important structural elements: We should consider the possibility th at Crane is working in a symbolist mode which requires not that each literal detail carry particularized symbolic meaning, but that some details may function in a supportive, non-symbolic way, and that the main symbolic meaning issues from the situation of the whole poem. (23-24) Fike rather freely interchanges symbolic la nguage and symbolist writings, however, so even a comment such as, Like Rimbaud, Crane seems to have wanted to achieve maximum literal-descriptive power accompanied by generalized symbolic meaning (24), adds little to a genuinely sy mbolist understanding of the poem. The 1978 publication of Thomas Parkinsons Hart Crane and Yvor Winters: Their Literary Correspondence resurrected many letters from Crane which had been omitted from Webers 1952 edition (many, but not all, of the letters Parkinson unearthed are included in Hammers 1997 revision). While these new letters reveal many important
84 aspects of Cranes evolving aesth etic theory coterminous with The Bridge, Parkinsons only allusions to Cranes symbolist perspectiv es occur in a reference to Winters' essay "The Extension and Reintegra tion of the Human Spirit": Crane read the essay and was pleased by it; it was one of the few critical works that he read seriously during 1929. The sympathetic treatment of his poetry he appreciated and had come to expect. Winters was placing him in the company of Baudelaire a nd Mallarm, and in his conclusion described Crane's poetry as am ong the major efforts and great achievements of the century. (136-37) Winters, of course, publis hed a scathing review of The Bridge the following year which led to the dissolution of his epistolary rela tionship with Crane. Parkinson convincingly argues that Winters began to pr efer the classicism of Tate to Cranes more exuberant romanticism; while Tate and Crane both wrot e in a symbolist vein and Winters did not, however, Parkinson frames Winters attitude s toward both poets within a symbolist context: He preferred Tate's new work to Cr ane's and saw Tate as Baudelaire to Crane's Rimbaud (137). The blind spots in Wint ers skewed judgment of both Crane and Rimbaud result from a thoroughgoing, extr a-literary, and reductive moralism. Robert Martins The Homosexual Tradition in American Poetry in 1979 initiated a series of gay readings of Crane, and while most of Martins analysis of imagery and technique is of limited scope, and the homosexual emphasis occasionally skews biographical facts, he points to the poets association with the older gay poet Wilbur Underwood as formative on Cranes early, pre-19 22 style: During the last half of this
85 period Crane was influenced in part by hi s friendship with Wilbur Underwood and by Underwoods work, largely translations or imita tions of French verse which had appeared a decade earlier (122). The observation is superfluous and unsubstantiated, not only because Crane himself was already thoroughl y familiar with Decadent and Symbolist poetry by the time he met Underwood in 1920, but also because no appreciable proof exists that Underwoods style influenced Crane at all. Hyatt Waggoners 1982 American Visionary Poetry promises more than it delivers in its brief discussion of Crane. Apart from a contradictory overemphasis and simultaneous devaluation of Whitmans ro le as Cranes inspirational precursor, Waggoner refers to the poet as a late Sy mbolist overburdened with religious aspirations: Like the good late Symbolist he wa s, Crane depended finally on poetry itself to express and support an implicitly religious Vision . If he were charged with a sentimental nostalgia for a dead faith, Crane had the nineteenth-century idea of the poet as the true Messiah to fall back on in self-defense. He could answer that, like the French Symbolists before him, he had simply used religious al lusions to enrich his poetry. (85-86) While Crane deploys Christian iconography a nd phrasing at various points, his verse never relies on any Messiah, much less a true one, in its depiction of spiritual struggle and longing. Allen Grossmans analysis of Cranes intense poetics in 1982 proves more illuminating, particularly with regard to the readers relationship to the dense linguistic
86 texture of Cranes symbolist poetry. Gro ssman shows how the obscurity of Cranes verse is intimately bound up w ith its underlying strategy: The reader must supplement the poem, endure its undefended and illogical energies, rather than gather its sense. The reader is ambiguously internal to the poem, a part of its project. . the surface of the poem is designed to exhaust the finite procedures which the reader brings to it. All poetry is in some sense uninterpret able; but the difficult poem is situated on the virtual uninterpretability of the poetic text, the infinite consanguinity of its elements. (245) In trying to answer the question What Is Symbolism? as Henri Peyre had done in a book-length treatment in 1974, Ren Wellek in 1982 also stressed the readers meaningmaking function as integral to the symbolist method: The Symbolists wanted words not mere ly to state but to suggest: they wanted their verse to be musical, i. e. in practice, to break with the oratorical tradition of the French alexandrine and, in some cases, to break completely with rhyme. . Gramma tically, Symbolist poetry could be called poetry of the predicate. It speaks of something or somebody, but the subject, the person or the thing, re mains hidden. Symbolist poetry thus tries to distance the language utteran ce from the extra-li nguistic situation. (23-26) One of Taupins translators, William Pra tt, also emphasizes the difficulty Cranes symbolist techniques impose on the reader; mo re importantly, as Pratt notes in a 1985
87 essay, Cranes assimilation of symbolist aesthet ics became one of the central facets of his poetry: Both the involved syntax and the st artling images of Crane's poetry are unmistakable signs that he had b een reading French, and reading it effectually . Admittedly, it makes for some distortion of language and even some unintentiona l obscurity--faults which critics have often found in Crane's poetry--when a poet of Cran e's spontaneous talent takes in a sophisticated foreign influence, but it also makes for phrases and lines of an unforgettable mystery and beauty, which invite the reader to explore them and try to untangle their meanings. . Crane's "fused metaphors . are hallmarks of his poetic style, and they are also clear proofs of his susceptibility to French influence. (French Origins 4) Furthermore, Pratts suggestion that in the modern period, and especially for American poets, influence has been rais ed to the level of inspirati on, and it has served to make the poetry both more international and more individual than the poetry of any previous age (7) aptly summarizes one plank of my argument, namely that Crane absorbed, assimilated, and then expanded upon poetic methods developed by the French Symbolists and in so doing helped rehabi litate and rejuvenate the styl e of modern American poetry. In contrast with Pratts view of Cranes symbolist root s, M. L. Rosenthal and Sally Gall persist in failing to acknowledge the poets familiarity with the French Symbolists even when their treatment delineat es such a method as in their discussion of the fifth poem of Voyages:
88 Crane makes full use in [Voyages V] of the fact that a poem is not a literal communication but a struct ure of affects. "Voyages V uses dialogue, suggests a scene and a relationship, envisions a dead, impenetrable universe--but it is a cons truct of tonalities and in no sense a narrative or argument. (328) Despite Rosenthal and Galls emphasis in 1983's The Modern Poetic Sequence on Cranes longer suites like For the Marria ge of Faustus and Helen, Voyages, and The Bridge their chief reference to Cranes poetic in fluences ridiculously links Voyages VI with Miltons Samson Agonistes (319)! They also shakily question the extent to which Crane internalized Pound and Eliots advan ces in modernist poetic technique and completely ignore Cranes di rect reading of Rimbaud: Crane could hardly have assimilated the discoveries of his elders, Eliot and Pound, when he began writing his sequences in 1923. Although in certain respects he was indeed what he has often been called, an American Rimbaud, this was basically because of his gifts--evident in his best work --for rapid associative movement by what he called "the logic of metaphor" and for bold and drastic emotional energy. (331) Apart from faulty chronol ogy (Faustus and Helen was completed in 1923), such a view merely recycles tired echoes of the hackneye d assumption of Cranes natural gifts as a linguistic genius and fail to take account of Cranes early and rapid assimilation of Rimbaud and other French Symbolist poets. Edward Brunners 1985 Splendid Failure does a much better job of correlating
89 Cranes evolutionary development with Eliotic and symbolist influences. With regard to Cranes obscurity, for instance, Brunner ri ghtly associates the poems structural difficulties with conceptual density: In the early poetry, what is puzzling is the excess in the poets intense language, but that very excess, it can be discovered, is it self in line with the poets theme, the necessity to brea k away from inhibiting conventions. The later poetry of White Buildings is genuinely difficult, inherently difficult, not to be resolved by some a ppeal to a general idea, because it is striving to convey simultaneously a number of overlapping ideas and contradictory movements, all of which are held in constant tension with each other. (58) Too frequently, however, Brunners overtly humanistic and thinly veiled psychological approach simply reduces the poems to ex ercises in self-therapy, a highly suspect operating assumption in Cranes case. While Brunners generally meticulous research help ed contribute toward Splendid Failure winning the annual MLA Prize for I ndependent Scholars and tied up many bibliographic loose ends in Crane scholarship, occasional lapses mar the efficacy of his argument. He is the first published critic, fo r example, to pinpoint the parallels between the conclusions of O Cari b Isle! and Rimbauds Lternit , confirming Fosters observation from her 1940 dissertation (Foster 177). Brunner correctly cites the revised version of Rimbauds poem from the Alchimie du verbe section of Une Saison en Enfer not the original version in Ftes de la Patience : the last two lin es of the earlier
90 Cest la mer alle/Avec le soleil from Festivals of Patience lack the vehemence of the later versions Cest la mer mle/Au soleil in A Season in Hell(132, 222) whose images are transfigured in the conclusion of Cranes O Carib Isle!: You have given me the shell, Satan,--carbonic amulet/S ere of the sun exploded in the sea ( Complete 112). In spite of his hyperbolic style, Brunner aptly compares the tw o poets perspective in both poems in terms of public reception: Rimbauds violent raptures depended on an audience that could be shaken (and perhaps secretly wished to be s hocked) out of its moribund lethargy. . he was insisting on the poets right to bring forward, however much it might cost him, a shattering dynamic vision that would (ideally) forever after alter the way the world was viewed. But Crane can no longer imagine recovering such elemental c onfidence in self-expression. . He has been virtually marooned on an isolated island, abandoned to a cemetery, in a way that is not at all uni que but in fact char acteristic of the place of the poet in modern culture. (106) Unfortunately, Brunner relies exclusively on T. Sturge Moores translation of Lternit in Edgell Rickwords Rimbaud, the volume through which Crane knew Rimbaud (106). Crane, of course, had orde red his own copy of Rimbaud from Paris in 1920 (Horton 94; Weber, Hart Crane 107; Crane, O My Land 44), whereas Rickwords book was published in 1924. Why Cranes Fren ch copy of Rimbaud is not included in Lohfs The Library of Hart Crane is a mystery, though I presume it perished in the 1926 hurricane on the Isle of Pines (Crane all udes to losing a book in such circumstances
91 in O My Land 315). Brunner compounds the gaffe in a footnote: With only a vague knowledge of French, Crane would have know n Eternity from th e Moore translation rather than from an earlier translation by H. C. Blum in The Dial 49 (July 1920), 1-26, because Blum translated only the prose sections and left the poetry (such as Eternity) in French (267). In addition to mistaking H for W in Blums initials, Brunner wrongly attributes the inclusi on of the untranslated Lternit to Blums Some Remarks on Rimbaud as Magician (in the June 1920 issue of The Dial ) instead of Watsons translation of A Season in Hell ( The Dial, July 1920) which left the six poems of Dlires II in French while translating all of A Season in Hell s prose. Diane Beth Gardens fine 1985 dissertation Arthur Rimbaud and Hart Crane: A Comparison of their Poetic Techniques and Underlying Aesthetic Goals comes closest to what I am trying to do. Despite limiting he r comparisons to Rimbaud, Garden sees Cranes evolution as developing from a pro clivity towards an indirect, impersonal, compressed, and decadent style (29) into a fully accomplished symbolist mode: in the poems of 1920-1924, he develops me thods that are symbolist. . he presents the theme indirectly through the imagery, uses words with multiple meanings that reflect and chime upon one another, disregards syntactical conventions, uses musical sounds and references, and replaces logical relationships by the truth of the imagination. ( Arthur Rimbaud 131) Gardens catalogue of symbolist traits is useful, but dating Cranes maturity as a symbolist at 1920 ignores successful early poems like In Shadow and North Labrador, as well as much of his juveni lia, nor is her alle gorical reading of
92 Annuciations (thus disqualifying it as a symbolist poem) convincing. Still, Garden rightly assesses that Voyages is a fully achieved symbolist masterpiece that ranks with Le Bateau ivre as high points of symbolist poetry: Voyages marks a turning point in Cranes development. In this sequence, he develops techniques that are the foundation for his symbolist style. The theme of each poem emerges indirectly through the images. The words have multiple meanings that reflect and chime upon one another. The terms of a metaphor are related by their emotional dynamics, as opposed to establishing a logical rela tionship between the images. (Arthur Rimbaud 125) Gardens comparative focus may lead here to overstating the importance of Voyages in Cranes development as a symbolist, neglecting to account for Black Tambourine, Passage, Repose of Rivers, At Melvilles Tomb, and so on. At the same time, however, Garden is mostly correct in describing the pers istence of symbolist techniques in Cranes later poems: From 1925 onward, Crane puts to use the symbolist methods that he developed earlier. They are a firmly es tablished part of his poetic craft. After 1925, his style doesnt show any significant change with regard to this factor. He will employ these methods in some of the individual poems of The Bridge and to the overall structure of the work. ( Arthur Rimbaud 176) The most significant difference between Gardens argument and mine concerns influence
93 and artistic development: she fails to account satisfactorily for the ways in which Crane was exposed to Rimbauds aesthetics, rely ing exclusively on Webers biography, which in turn relies on Fosters dissertation, to cite only Ri ckwords 1924 book as the most important and singular shaping influen ce on Cranes appreciation of Rimbaud. John Untereckers 1986 biographical introduction to The Complete Poems of Hart Crane also stresses the poets early exposure to Symbolism. During his first stay in New York in 1917, Crane was introduced to Padr aic and Mary Colum, with whom he conducted an informal education: Padraic, who was an acquaintance of William Butler Yeats, and Mary, a French scholar steeped in French sy mbolist theory, r ead with young Crane --line by line--not only much of Ye ats early work but also poems by Rimbaud, Baudelaire, and Verlaine and discussed with him the impact on modern poetry of Arthur Symons book on the symbolist tradition. (Introduction xxiii-xxiv) These details supplement the description of Cranes first stay in New York in Untereckers Voyager and confirm the poets relatively early awareness of and study of symbolist poetry. Maria Bennetts 1987 Unfractioned Idiom explores many of the same issues, situating Cranes work in re lation to modernist painting, film, photography, and music, but the most valuable portions of her anal ysis concern Cranes debts to Baudelaire and Rimbaud. Bennett traces many similarities in specific im agery between Crane and the French Symbolists, but her discussion of the poets immediate forebears in English
94 remains fairly general: For Eliot and Pound, the j uxtaposition of ancien t history, Renaissance poets, and trench warfare was not at all unusual, as the imbrication of Pocahontas, the Spanish conquest and the BMT subway was not for Crane in The Bridge . . As a result, the reader is forced to re-define his own notions concerning meaning and form within the context of poetry. Frequently, references are suspende d throughout the poem so that a sense of total form in terms of their re ferents may only appear at the poem's conclusion; in a sense, this indicates the notion of meaning by accretion of images which is so much a part of the modern poetic sequence. (11) In addition to tracking down stylistic affinities between Crane and Rimbaud, Bennett also connects significant biographical details between them: As Crane fled from Ohio to Greenwich Village, so did Rimbaud, attracted by not only the artistic milieu of Paris but its involvement in the revolutionary effect of the Paris Commune. This physical deracination is perhaps allied to the amorphous quality of the poetic voice in both poets' work; although infrequent, Crane's usage of the first-person pronoun, much like Rimbaud's, gives us no clear sense of speaker. (70-71) Her critique of the amorphous voice of Cr ane and Rimbaud fails to account for the symbolist emphasis on mystery and evocation; indirection, the l ack of conventional discursive situations to place the speaker, and the juxtaposition of disparate imagery all contribute toward the dislocation of language each poet seeks to create.
95 Most of Bennetts close read ings point out useful pa rallels between Crane, Baudelaire, and Rimbaud, but occasionally an overemphasis on the speakers subject position in specific poems leads to sweeping generalizations about each poets aesthetic ideals. Bennets discussion of North Labrador, for instance, concentrates somewhat questionably on the speaker rather than the central symbol in the source poem: The poet receives no answer to his question, no resp onse to his desire; as in Baudelaires Beaut, it is the mirror which thrusts his ow n image back upon him in an almost autoerotic manner (139), yet the focus in bot h poems lies in the self-absorption of the female figure being addressed, not the sp eaker (confusing the speaker and poet in symbolist poetry is also almost always fra ught with risk and frequently unproductive). Alan Williamsons essay on Crane in the 1987 Voices and Visions compendium also acknowledges the poets exposure to the symbolists via Eliot: From Eliot, Crane quickly proc eeded to the tastes Eliot was recommending in the literature of othe r times and countries--in particular, to the French Symbolists. Of the Symbolists, his immediate favorite was Rimbaud, and it is not hard to see why. Like Crane, Rimbaud was a rebel, a strikingly masculine homosexua l poet who explored mystical borderlands of sensation and died an early death. (327) Williamson also connects Cranes creative interests with Rimbauds program of drglement a doctrine which surely influenced Cr anes view of alcoholic and sexual excess as religious Ways, as well as Rimbaud s interest in metropolitan settings and the alchemy of the word:
96 This is the same impossible equivalence between writing and consciousness that Crane called abso lute poetry; and Rimbauds chief method for achieving it--a synaesthetic blending of the different senses, derived from Baudelaire--seems a na rrower version of Cranes stress on polyvalent mental connections, the logic of metaphor. (327) Williamson rightly recognizes the subtle expans ions of symbolist aesthetics in Cranes theorizing about the logic of metaphor a nd the dynamics of inferential mention. Though Williamsons essay is fairly brief, hi s description of Cranes compression and associational style bears citing: [Crane] tends to overdetermi ne, to load each word with as much connotation and suggestiveness as it will bear, so that his sentences are sometimes almost unintelligible without these undermeanings (313). The rhetorical emphasis in the 1987 Transmemberment of Song by Lee Edelman proposes a clever taxonomy in which Cranes chief figural tr opes are anacoluthon, chiasmus, and catachresis. Each of these de vices is prevalent in symbolist poetry, though as the limited historical dimensions of his analysis place Crane in a general romantic tradition, Edelman rarely addresses such stylistic influences. Instead, he dubiously advances a Bloomian model of Oedipal str uggle, fixing on Whitman as Cranes paternal precursor whose rhetorical authority the youn ger poet must usurp (190). Crane himself unequivocally disavowed any interest in pursu ing such mastery over other artists: I resent being posed in a kind of All Amer ican Lyric Sprint with anyone, as the competitive idea seems foreign to my idea of creation ( O My Land 380). As another critic remarks, Compared to not a few of his senior Am erican contemporaries--Frost,
97 Williams, Stevens, Jeffers, all appearing at ti mes to resent the mere existence of poetic voices other than their own--Crane seems w ithout competitive prejudice (Berthoff 5). More dependably, Edelman analyzes the inexhaustability of multiple interpretations readers confront in Cranes poems: irrec oncilable possibilities produce a fissure in which meaning cannot be recuperated. Cranes poetry, of course, delights in such gaps, such cognitive lacunae. . .Cranes poetry derives its power from the consistency with which it questions or problematizes the re ferential function of language (86). The discussion of symbolist aesthetics in a chapter on Tate and Crane in Albert Gelpis 1987 A Coherent Splendor displays a staggering breadth and precision. Comparing Cranes approach with the symbolis t techniques of Tate and Eliot in their early poems, Gelpi argues that The development of Symbolisme in France and its far-reaching and longlasting impact on poetry in Englis h (particularly following Symons The Symbolist Movement in Literature at the turn of the century) mark a shift from the Romantic location of the individual in the cosmos to the exploration of internal states record ed and even created in the act of language. . whereas Eliot drew principally upon the tragic irony and wit of Baudelaire and Laforgue to voice his own self-consciou s experience of disillusioned impotence, Crane looked principally to Rimbaud. Admittedly there is verbal evidence of Laforgues and Eliots influence in such early Crane pieces as Pastorale and In Shadow . In fact, it was less Rimbaud's tone and themes that Crane adopted than his technique for
98 provoking a visionary state. (395) Most of Gelpis observations are more appropri ate in the context of my own discussion of Crane as neo-symbolist in chapters three and four, but the following summation of the rationale behind Cranes attempt to employ symbolist methods in a public poem like The Bridge is worth citing here: For Eliot and Tate, both of whom manifested for Crane an intimidating assurance and authority, the fatal Ro mantic error, which opened the way for Symboliste solipsism, lay in ma king the weak individual with his limited consciousness, rather than th e collective consciousness with its institutionalized structures, the vehicle of divine revelation. Crane set out to dispute the point by writing a Sy mboliste poetry of affirmation, like Rimbaud's visionary writings, to counter the Symboliste poetry of negation in Poe and Baudelaire, Eliot and Tate. (Gelpi 403) The detail and cogent argumenta tion in Gelpis analysis contrast starkly with the generalized and rather superf icial discussion of Cranes ae sthetics in Warner Berthoffs 1989 Hart Crane: A Re-Introduction Berthoff barely mentions Cranes symbolist bent at all, the only mention occurring in a discussion of the early emergence of Cranes vital signature in 1918: [a] half lin e in Carrier Letter marks Cranes first use of a cadence and syntactical pivot he would return to more than once in his mature work (much follows, much endures: see, inter alia New thresholds, new anatomies in The Wine Menagerie or Times rendings, times bl endings in The River) (11). The accompanying footnote merely parrots earlier observations by Foster and Paul and
99 additionally miscounts the number of Cran es translations from Laforgues Locutions des Pierrots : The spellbinding precedent for this would be Rimbauds O saisons, chteaux! ( Une Saison en enfer ). Cranes command of French, as everyone remarks, was not much better than Whitmans, though he worked up two translations from Lafo rgue that appeared in the May 1922 Double Dealer --a month ahead of maiden contributions by Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner. (114) Ernest Smiths 1990 The Imaged Word, examines the overall coherence and infrastructure of Cranes first volume. Ha mpered by a humanistic and sociological thesis focusing on the poets response to the extern al world, Smiths analysis nonetheless argues that the second group of poems in the book, Garden Abstract through North Labrador, reveals a symbolist orientatio n: These are the earliest poems in White Buildings in terms of date of composition, reve aling the influence of the Imagist and French Symbolist poetry that Crane was absorbed in while writing them (1917-early 1920), before he encountered The Waste Land and Ulysses (7). Smiths assumption (prefigured by Longenbach) that Cranes exposure to Eliots The Waste Land and Joyces Ulysses somehow led to a wholesale revision in the poets style is untenable; Joyces prose style does not appreciably surface in Crane (unless one counts the compression which accompanies the stream-of-consciousness technique, an already established feature even in Cranes juvenilia), nor was Cranes early response to Eliots poem particularly enthusiastic: It was good, of course, but so damned dead. Neither does it, in my
100 opinion, add anything important to Eliots achievement ( O My Land 108). Crane would revise his estimate of The Waste Land in coming years, but he followed Eliots career avidly and by June 1922 would admit that he had been facing him for four years already ( O My Land 89). Smiths most valuable contribution, at least for understanding Cranes poems from a symbolist perspective, lies in his traci ng out of the internal cross-resonances and echoes within the poems of White Buildings. While his analysis of specific image clusters and phrases points out some of th e ways Cranes poems reinforce one another, Smiths general observations are also sound: connotatively, particular images and units of phrasing echo one another throughout the volume, es tablishing associational meanings that multiply and thereby link in dividual poems (9). Though Smith does not go so far as to assert a symbolist undergird ing to the patterns he outlines in Cranes poems, his description of how these symbol clusters work is conceptually symbolist: images within Cranes poems reverberate o ff one another, often qualifying or expanding the affective qualities of particular lines (83). Thomas Yinglings landmark Hart Crane and the Homosexual Text (1990) synthesizes and deftly consolidates while extending the contemporary trend begun by Robert Martin and Gregory Woods toward reading Crane primarily as a gay artist. Yingling astutely acknowledges that since homosexuality is alternately sublimated, repressed, or oppressed in the text of The Bridge the appeal of a gay studies reading of Cranes work mainly attracts readers interes ted in the question of homosexuality (25253). Nevertheless, in referring to the foreword of White Buildings Tate recognized that
101 Cranes verse perhaps required a different mode of evaluation than that applied to other texts of modernism, that it was difficult a nd intertextual in a way that broke the boundaries of the discrete poeti c object (58), Yingling accedes in a footnote to a mode of reading that I am trying to emulate: Tate has identified without being able to achieve a new critical task, one that moves beyond the close reading of individual poems into something like analysis of the text uality of a writers work. Cranes work announces (in 1926) that something other than New Criticism will be needed to explain all of the products of the modernist imagination. (258) In Hart Cranes Poetics of Privacy, Tim Dean smartly revises the gay studies model of Cranes obscure language by showing how Cr anes lexicon is grounded in issues of ontology rather than epistemology (the subtextu al closet logic of homosexuality): The poems in White Buildings are constructed not according to the logic of a more or less legible homosexual code but according to the lo gic of a radical privacy that attempts to circumvent the very possibility-condition of such a code by constructing a form of privacy alternate to that of the closet (101). To a larger extent, though, Yinglings thorough and discri minating analysis leads him to foreground Cranes poems within a symbolist context qu ite often. One of Yinglings sharpest symbolist connections occu rs in a footnote count ering the restrictive and transparently absurd thesis of Edwin Fussell that the dicti on of American poetry defines it as American [whi ch thereby] dismisses Wall ace Stevens as having whored after the Roman vernaculars:
102 One can find a host of Puritanical bias es buried in this statement; perhaps the one most germane to this study is the notion that allegiance to French Symbolism (that painted but empty whore of the nineteenth century) rather than American plain speech is to be deplored as inappropriate to the question of poetry in America. Fo r Cranes work, such a notion is baffling--for he is, on the one hand, far more overtly concerned with America as a social, political entity th an someone like Eliot. On the other hand, his work is far from the plain-speech tradition. (17, 230) On another occasion, Yingling associates Cr anes poem Passage with the epigraph to White Buildings from Rimbauds Enfance with great insight. The apocalyptic Rimbaud line, Ce ne peut tre que la fin du monde, en avanant (This can only be the end of the world, ahead), derives from part IV of Enfance. After noting how the whole section of Rimbauds sequence is in f act a map of slippages and unset tled identities leading not to some resolution of crisis but dissolvi ng in a forbidding and inhuman wasteland, Yingling then quotes the entire se ction before tersely concluding, Crane's "Passage" shares with Enfance this vocabulary of abandonment, this symbolic landscape and its s tifling atmosphere, and the distant, unachievable goal of an identity conf irmed in the regularity of social conventions; there is perhaps no bette r gloss on Crane's reading of the subject's construction in the gaps a nd aporiae of language than Rimbaud's reading of it. (125-26)
103 One other book from 1990 deserves notice, no t for its rather thin analysis but for its first appendix: Wallace Fowlies Poem and Symbol: A Brief History of French Symbolism generously prints a private 1935 letter fr om Allen Tate to the author regarding Crane and the French poets, especially Rimb aud, with the conviction that future scholars will find it useful (153). No one else ha s commented on the text, and its insights are integral to my own readings in later chapte rs. Fowlie probably dr ew upon Tates insights in composing the brief section on Rimbaud and Crane in The Clowns Grail (1948), though Fowlies observations in that text scar cely proceed beyond generalizations such as that Crane felt strong affiliation with Ri mbauds work, although he was unable to read it easily in the original. Th eir experience and temperament we re so similar that there was little need for Crane of litera l translation of Rimbauds text s (133), or Behind Rimbaud and Crane, and fully known to both of them because he possesses their temperament and prefigures their art, stands Charles Baudelaire (136). Gregory Woods justifiably characterizes the readings of Rimbaud and Crane in Fowlies The Clowns Grail which was reprinted as Love in Literature in 1965 as nastily homophobic (Hart Crane 59). On the most general level, ho wever, Tates letter to Fowlie in the appendix to Poem and Symbol testifies that Cranes knowledge of French was very limited. . the actual influence of Rimbaud, or any other fore ign poet, was very slight, yet he also acknowledges Cranes more than superficial likeness to Rimbaud is not without significance. The more I study this matter of influence, the more I am convinced we must go carefully (153-54). In addition to na ming specific texts Crane used, such as the Modern Library Series of Ba udelaire translations by vari ous authors edited by T. R.
104 Smith, Tate also reveals for the first time that Crane knew more about Baudelaire than about Rimbaud (154). Developing theoretical insights from Edelman and Yingling, Patrick McGees first chapter of Telling the Other (1992) shows how the speak er and readers of a Crane poem are consigned to a world in which word s never quite reach th eir referents, though the suggestiveness of their relational play seems almost unlimited (33). McGee uses Cranes last poem, The Broken Tower, to illustrate how Baudr illards notion of symbolic exchange helps readers appreciate the ways in which a poem may work selfconsciously against critical judgment, against poetrys tendency toward aesthetic objectification (32). In Hart Cranes Difficult Passa ge (1993), J. T. Barbarese locates Crane firmly within the romantic tradition, albeit acknowledging that his ear ly poetry issued from an apprenticeship in Eliot and Pound (421). For Barbarese, Cranes style has matured by 1921 into a lyrical signature: an attitude of epideixis of impassioned invocation, a habit of emphatically pointing to what is beloved. . the impression this habit leaves on readers: they are lifte d out of their reading as the poem is taken off the page, out of the realm of the literary into that of spoken or presentational arts like drama or oratory. (423-24) Though reluctant to reco gnize the approach as symbolist, Barbarese admits that behind the core of Cranes poeti cs lies a conviction that th e poetic shape of an idea is at once idea, or thought, or feeling. And nothing else quite like th is conviction exists in the
105 core curricula of Modernist poetics, which embraces an anal ytic lyricism of infinite discrimination but retreats from such connect edness, such infinite consanguinity (440). Barbarese then confirms Tate s suggestions that the major precedent which Cranes poetic theory builds on is Baudelaires, but th e analysis of Baudelaires importance to Crane which follows merely concentrates on similar tropes of connection in Correspondances and Voyages II (440-41). John Norton-Smiths A Readers Guide to White Buildings (1993) presents some of the most detailed readings of Cranes transmogrifications of symbolist precursors, tracing specific lines and images to writi ngs by Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Mallarm, Vildrac, and Valry. Norton-Smith dates Cranes full ma turity as a symbolist poet fairly late: by the summer of 1923, the latent symbolist tende ncy of his verse (pre sent in occasional elements from 1917 onwards) began to preva il. Density of meaning, compression and complexity of expression, obliqueness of plot transitions began to cohere in a dominant form (4), but he also acknowledges that Crane s interest in, and reading of French late Romantic and Symbolist verse must have begun well in advance of 1920 (69). Assembled from notes by Victor Shretkowi cz after Norton-Smiths death in 1988, the text suffers from a fragmentar y structure; in addition, most of the research derives from the late sixties, so Norton-Smith needlessly laments, We do not know enough about the poets private reading during this period to provide dates and authors confidently (69), a fine record of which can be deduced from Cr anes letters and Lohfs Library of Hart Crane. As a whole, however, Norton-Smith presents one of the most thoughtful and detailed discussions of Cranes debts to the Symbolists, correctly concluding, The
106 significant change in Cranes sensibility begi ns with his first-hand reading of Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Laforgue and Eliot (149). Although the focus on Tate and Crane might lead one to expect Langdon Hammers Hart Crane and Allen Tate: Janus-Faced Modernism (1993) to address symbolist aesthetics, Hammer is more intent on opposing Cranes late romanticism to Tates classical Eliotic strict ures of high modernism and New Criticism. Nevertheless, in analyzing the finale of The Bridge Hammer distinguishes between the multi-layered symbolist orientation underlying Cranes poem with the more conventional expectations of Tates most famous poem, Ode to the Confederate Dead: So, too, the new octaves evoked in the third stanza ar e both diatonic intervals of eight degrees and the eigh t-line units before us on the page, which organize, in material and i mmediately visible structures, the progressive ascent of Crane s ecstatic utterance. What Crane is seeking in these self-descriptive tropes is not the imitative form of Ode to the Confederate Dead, where the action of the verse mimes or replicates, in a mode of commemorative ceremony, heroic events unavailabl e to the poet; in Atlantis, the action of Cranes la nguage is itself th e heroic event it describes. (183-84) Hammer is also correct in refining ideas by Grossman and Gross th at some of Cranes syntactical contortions are rhythmic in origin, dependent on symbolist emphases of musicality. Hammer points to the juxtaposed symbols in At Melvilles Tomb as evidence:
107 the multiple figures in the second stanzas substitutive chain (wreckscalyx-chapter-hieroglyphportent) are organized as a chain and not a random series less by logic or gramma tical relation than by the catena of pentameter. This is frequently the state of affairs in Cranes poems, where meter takes over the work of grammar in the construction of an elaborate apostrophe or an extended series of appositive phrases. (153-54) Even more importantly, Hamm er refers to Cranes essay General Aims and Theories to account for what I am calling Cranes neo-symbolist recognition of the readers importance in mode rnist poetry. Though veiled by a superfluous sexual patina (a tone that intrudes too freque ntly in his editing of the O My Land, My Friends: The Selected Letters of Hart Crane ), Hammers remarks on the collaborative role of the reader confirm the intimate and potentially tr ansgressive symbolist axis at the center of Cranes poetics: Crane imagines the act of reading a modern poem--when it is successful, when the reader and poet really spa rk (a slang word Crane used)--as a tryst. Reading is like cruising; it calls for shared recognitions; it communicates pleasure and pain. Even the arbitrariness of the union between a modern poet and a reader, the necessary impersonality of their bond, becomes the ground of a profoundly personal relation, a communication that exceeds the demands and conventions of civil reference. (160)
108 108 Hammer provides a more persuasi ve description of Cranes atti tude toward his readers in the introduction to O My Land : Crane asks the reader of his poems to take part in their making because a poems meaning is always something for the reader to complete. Complete, not create: the distinction matters, because Crane saw poetry as a collaborative act in which meaning is confirmed by being shared; neither poet nor reader is free to use words capriciously, without reference to the other. For Crane approached the reader of his poems as a kind of correspondent, and his deepest wish in poetry was to be received (xxv) Part of the difficulty cont emporary readers face in Cranes poems derives from the symbolist poets disregard for narrative and traditionally disc ursive structures. Todays literary theorists, of course, seize on the dense ve rbal textures foregrounded in Cranes poems, though without attr ibuting such an orientation to symbolist aesthetics. Samuel Delany, for instance, argues that Cran es poems highlight in stark relief what language poet Ron Silliman calls the pure materiality of the signifier: It is easy to see (and to say) th at Cranes poetry foregrounds language, making readers revel in its sensuousness and richness. But one of the rhetorical strategies by which he accomplishes this in line after line is simply to shut down the semantic, re ferential instrumentality of language all but completely . [words] a rrive in swirling atmospheres of connotation, to which they even contri bute; but reference plays little part in the resolution of these poetic figure s. Reading only begins with such
109 109 lines as one turns to clarify how they resist reference, re sist interpretation, even as their syntax seems to court them. (210-11) Thus despite occasional attention devoted to discussing Cranes status as a symbolist poet and the reading challenges his po ems present, critics generally have failed to measure the topography of Cranes work w ithin a consistently symbolist framework. Fragmentary and incomplete analyses of Cr anes symbolist methods have impeded an appreciation of the extent to which Crane introjected and modified the aesthetics and techniques of major symbolist poets like Baudelaire, Rimbau d, and Mallarm. Past the centennial of his birth, the time has come for a sustained examination of Cranes various responses to the notion of literary influence, the specific ways he assimilates and adapts symbolist techniques, and how Cranes symbolis t orientation fueled rather than detracted from his effort to portray modern American culture.
110 110 Chapter Two: T. S. Eliot, Hart Crane, and Literary Influence Hart Crane's career represents the most accomplished expression of the symbolist sensibility in modern American poetry. Before one fully explores th e depth and range of Crane's borrowings from and extensions of poetic methods developed by the French Symbolists, one must first understand the spec ific milieu in which Crane began his career as a poet. The initial crucial link in Crane' s appreciation for French poets of the late nineteenth century, of course, is T. S. Eliot, a fact Crane acknowledged in one of his first letters to Allen Tate [I have not edited Cranes letters for either grammar or spelling]: "my affection for Laforgue is none the less genuine for being lead to him through Pound and T. S. Eliot than it would have been through Baudelaire" ( O My Land 85). While situating Crane in relation to Eliot should have become almost commonplace nowadays, these notes will hazard a fresh attempt to gauge as fully as possible Crane's unique relationship to Eliot as one of the chief influences on the younger poet's development. Though Wallace Fowlie's Poem and Symbol prints a previously unpublished 1935 letter from Allen Tate which t ouches directly on Crane's relationship to Eliot, "Of course he was immensely influenced by Eliot, in his youth, and by some phases of Pound; but by 1924 he was in revolt against these poets" (154), a close examination of Crane's letters shows how the chronology here is a bit susp ect. More accurate ly, Crane's attitudes
111 111 toward Eliot as a creative influence fluctuated quite a bit over the course of his career, encompassing a spectrum of emotions from intense admiration to jealous dismissal. Among Crane's literary influences, Eliot rema ins the most consistent recipient of Crane's attention over most of the younger poets career. As early as 1920, Crane recognized the artistic authority of Eliot and suggested that "Eliot's influence threatens to predominate the new English" (Weber, Letters 44). Crane's respect for Eliot persisted even as late as 1927; in a le tter to his patron, Otto Kahn, Crane catalogues the portions of The Bridge already published in journals by pa renthetically noting, "I have been especially gratified by the reception accorded me by The Criterion whose director, Mr. T. S. Eliot, is representative of the mo st exacting literary stan dards of our times" ( O My Land 308). How, then, did Crane finally arrive at a point where, as Tate puts it, "several years before he died he hated [Eliot and P ound] in a definitely personal sense" (Fowlie, Poem and Symbol 154)? The most convincing answer to this quandary is advanced by James Longenbach who argues that Crane's fluctuating relationshi p to Eliot depended more on how others interpreted Eliot rather than Crane's own personal response to Eliot's work: Early on, Crane cathected to the more passionate aspect s of the older poet's work, and that passion fueled his own poetry; later, as influential readers defined Eliot's achievement in different terms, Crane could no longer see his debt to the Eliot they denied (103). In essence, Crane's opposition to Eliot in the mid-twenties derives from a reaction to the New Criticism-oriented perception of Eliot's legacy : "Crane often said th at his own work was designed as a correction of Eliot's, but the poet he corrected was th e Eliot defined by the
112 dull-minded Munson and Tate" (Longenbach 83 ). Longenbach seizes on the fragile vulnerability of Eliot's early poems as contai ning attitudes congenial to Crane. Crane's citation of lines from "Rhapsody on a Windy Ni ght" and "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" in his explanation of the "logic of metaphor" in his famous letter to Harriet Monroe ( O My Land 280) confirms this view as much as, if not more than, Longenbach's analysis of Eliot's "Reflections on Contemporary Poetry." This particular Eliot essay, the fourth in a series entitled Reflections on Contemporary Poetry in the journal Egoist dates from July 1919 and has never been reprinted, but its erotically ch arged trope of influence illu minates Crane's own attitudes toward poetic influence to a startling degree. Crane cited Eliot's essay in a letter to Tate whose last portions have been lost; pointe dly, Langdon Hammer "wonders if Tate lost the rest of Crane's letter deliberat ely; it is one of the few ga ps in a correspondence Tate clearly cherished" (136). Eliot's essay describes poetic infl uence in terms which sound surprisingly similar to Tate's assessments of Crane's belated "h atred" of Eliot. The surviving portion of Crane's letter that cites Eliot's essay begins "Admiration leads most often to imitation; we can seldom remain long unconscious of our imitating another, and the awareness of our debt naturally leads us to hatred of the object imitated" ( O My Land 90). So far as it goes, this brief assessment reinforces Tate's view that Crane grew to loathe Eliot's impact on the younger poets literary development, but as the later (missing) portions of the essay reveal, Eliot's theory of influence distinguishes between trivial imitation and genuine influence:
113 This relation is a feel ing of profound kinship, or rather of a peculiar personal intimacy, with another, probab ly dead author. It may overcome us suddenly, on first or after long acquain tance; it is certa inly a crisis; and when a young writer is seized with his fi rst passion of this sort he may be changed, metamorphosed almost, within a few weeks even, from a bundle of second-hand sentiments into a person. . It is a cause of development, like personal relations in life. Like personal intimacies in life, it may and probably will pass, but it will be ine ffaceable . We may not be great lovers; but if we had a genuine affair with a real poet of any degree we have acquired a monitor to avert us wh en we are not in love. . We do not imitate, we are changed; and our wo rk is the work of the changed man; we have not borrowed, we have been quickened, and we become bearers of a tradition. ("Reflections" 39) Similarly, at a point still relatively early in his career (1921), Crane describes his response to what he calls hi s "long-standing friendship" with Elizabethan writers like Donne, Webster, Marlowe, and Jonson as r unning parallel to Eliot's own development: I can find nothing in modern work to come up to the verbal richness, irony and emotion of these folks, and I would like to let them influence me as much as they can in the interpreta tion of modern moods,--somewhat as Eliot has so beautifully done . . I don't want to imitate Eliot, of course,-but I have come to the stage now wh ere I want to carefully choose my most congenial influences and, in a wa y, "cultivate" their influence. .
114 One must be drenched in words, liter ally soaked with them to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment. ( O My Land 72) Cranes early respectful attitude toward Elio ts achievements curiously resembles Eliots own appreciation of a formative debt to La forgue, though Eliot writes retrospectively from a 1950 vantage point: [Laforgue] was the first to teach me how to speak, to teach me the poetic possibilities of my own idiom of speech. Such early influences, the influences which, so to speak, first introduce one to onese lf, are, I think, due to an impression which is in one aspect, the recognition of a temperament akin to ones own, and in another aspect th e discovery of a form of expression which gives a clue to the discovery of ones own form. These are not two things, but two aspects of the same thing. ( To Criticize 126) For Crane and the Eliot of Reflections on Contemporary Poetry, poetic influence shapes a younger, identity-forming artist primarily through app eals to sensibility (temperament) and style (ones form of expre ssion). However, the important distinction to note in the alignment of these unconventional attitudes to ward influence is how these methods of conceptualization differ signi ficantly from the impersonal theory of composition famously proposed in Eliot's "T radition and the Individual Talent," which became a dominant aesthetic touchstone for many subsequent critics. Whereas Crane emphasizes the emot ional dimension of other great Elizabethan
115 poets (and surely he hopes to cultivate this as pect of their art as much as their "verbal richness" and "irony"), in "Tradition and the Individual Talent" El iot reconfigures the emotional component of the equation of influen ce so that finally, "Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion" ( Selected 43). As Longenbach points out, Crane gravitated toward Eliot' s earlier theory of poetic influence from "Reflections on Contemporary Poetry" instead of the later more famous revision: "an Eliot who spoke of influence as a 'love affair' reft by 'crisis' a nd 'passion' (rather than an ordered assessment of existing monuments) might re ally have believed in the po wer of a moment's surrender" (87). Langdon Hammer calls attention in a pa rallel way to how Eliot censored the earlier vision of influence by excluding Reflecti ons on Contemporary Poetry from his first volume of collected essays, The Sacred Wood : Eliot replaced its model of literary affiliation with a fundamentally different account of how one ente rs into poetic community. For Tradition and the Individual Talent rejects the homoerotic metaphor and Paterian language of the Egoist essay in favor of institutional discipline, filial piety, and a poetics of renunciation. Eliots spooky qualification-- probably a dead author--is meant to emphasize the merely figurative status of his erotic conceit. ( Crane and Tate 136) Significantly, Eliots later theory of impers onal poetry from Tradition and the Individual Talent served as the interpretive backbone of New Critical readings of Eliot's (and, unfortunately, Crane's) works and led to Crane's subsequent rejection of this more pessimistic vision of Eliot that so many others championed.
116 Nevertheless, in spite of Crane' s explicit rejections of Eliot's negativism (particularly following the publication of The Waste Land in 1922), the two poets' approaches toward both aesthe tics and literary influence coincide in many ways. Before examining these convergences, one must see that Crane felt pressure throughout his career to differentiate his own projects from those of Eliot; such a struggle surfaces repeatedly in Cranes letters: I have been facing [Eliot] for four years,--and while I haven't discovered a weak spot yet in his armour, I flatte r myself a little lately that I have discovered a safe tangent to strike which, if I can possibly explain this position,--goes through him toward a different goal You see it is such a fearful temptation to imitate him that at times I have been almost distracted. . In his own realm E liot presents us with an absolute impasse yet oddly enough, he can be utilized to lead us to, intelligently point to, other positions and "pastures new." ( O My Land 89) As the previous quotation shows, Crane felt an affinity with and an admiration for the technical achievements of Eliot but convers ely saw their deployment as misguided and unnecessarily pessimistic. In another le tter from 1923 to Gorham Munson, Crane reiterates his desire to appropriate Eliot's t echnique for other ends: You already know, I think, that my work for the past two years (those meagre drops!) has been more influen ced by Eliot than any other modern. . There is no one writing in Englis h who can command so much respect, to my mind, as Eliot. However, I take Eliot as a point of departure toward
117 an almost complete reverse of direction. His pessimism is amply justified, in his own case. But I would apply as much of his erudition and technique as I can absorb and assemble toward a more positive, or (if [I] must put it so in a skeptical age) ecstatic goal. (Weber, Letters 114-15) Within three years, though, in the middle of a period of doubt regarding the potential success of his grand project The Bridge, Crane's resentment toward the climate of negativism fostered by the popular perception of Eliot as the spokesman for the culture of decay explodes: Rimbaud was the last grea t poet that our civilization will see--he let off all the great cannon crackers in Valhalla's pa rapets, the sun has set theatrically several times since while Laforgue, Eliot and others of that kidney have whimpered fastidiously ( O My Land 259). Even after the completion of The Bridge, Crane admitted to a reviewer that one of the goals of his great poem invol ved breaking loose from the "particular straitjacket" of fashionable Eliotic pessimism: "The poem, as a whole, is, I think, an affirmation of experience, and to that extent is 'positive' rather than 'negative' in the sense that The Waste Land is negative" (Weber, Letters 351). Regarding aesthetics, Crane still maintained a respect for Eliot even while tr ying to distinguish hi s epic project from Eliots: It took me nearly five years, with innumerable readings to convince myself of the essential unity of that poem [The Waste Land ]. And the Bridge is at least as complicated in its structure and inferences . perhaps more so ( O My Land 427). This letter from April 1930 hardly seems inflamed with the personal hatred Tate claimed Crane harbored toward Eliot after 1924. Cranes revolt in sensibility against the voluptuous melancholics of Eliot ( O My
118 Land 249) has misled critics into concludi ng that Crane denounced all the poetic technical achievements of Eliot, even though constitutive parallels run throughout The Bridge and The Waste Land : Frequently, references are suspended throughout the poem so that a sense of total form in terms of their referents may only appear at the poems conclusion; in a sense, this indicates the notion of meaning by accretion of images which is so much a part of the mode rn poetic sequence (Bennett 11). Regarding the similarity between Eliot and Crane's aesthetics, both poets view their creativity as a uniquely modern a ttempt to surrender to the urban surroundings rather than imposing a vision on the contem porary landscape. As Eliot asserts in "Tradition and the Individual Talent," "What ha ppens is a continual surrender of himself as he is at the moment to something which is more valuable. The progr ess of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality" (Selected 40). In a related vein, Eliot invokes Baudelaire as a significan t precursor in the same way that Crane frequently calls on Rimbaud as inspiration, but the best focus of Elio ts praise centers on Baudelaire's approach: It is not merely in th e use of imagery of co mmon life, not merely in the use of imagery of the so rdid life of a great metropolis, but in the elevation of such imagery to the first intensity --presenting it as it is, and ye t making it represent something much more than itself--that Baudelaire has cr eated a mode of rele ase and expression for other men ( Selected 234). Crane's view of the modern poet's role is remarkably similar in many ways, but whereas Eliot goes only as far as insisting on se lf-sacrifice in the interests of heightened intensity, Crane's essay "Modern Poetry" extends this notion to include the poet's ethical
119 response following such a volitional surrender: For unless poetry can absorb the machine, i.e., acclimatize it as naturally and casually as trees, cattle, galleons, castles and all other human associations of the past, then poetr y has failed of its full contemporary function. . [This process] demands however, along with the traditional qualifications of the poet, an extraord inary capacity for surrender, at least temporarily, to the sensations of urba n life. This presupposes, of course, that the poet possesses sufficient spon taneity and gusto to convert this experience into positive terms. ( CPSLP 261-62) Whether these "positive terms" Crane refers to indicate something as simple as socially productive effects may be open to debate, but in all likelihood--as another reflection of a divergence from Eliot's approach--Crane probably means something closer to an affirmation of life, what in another contex t he terms "an actively operating principle of communal works and faith": The validity of a work of art is situ ated in contemporary reality to the extent that the artist must honestly anticipate the reali zation of his vision in action (as an actively operati ng principle of communal works and faith), and I dont mean by this that his procedure requires any bona fide evidences directly and personally sign aled, nor even any physical signs or portents. . It has always been taken for granted, however, that his intuitions were salutary and that his vision either sowed or epitomized experience (in the Blakian sense). Even the rapturous and explosive
120 destructivism of Rimba ud presupposes this, even his lonely hauteur demands it for any estimate or apprecia tion. (The romantic attitude must at least have the background of an age of faith, whether approved or disproved no matter.) ( O My Land 258) Thus while Eliot and Crane both emphasize the modern poet's need to open himself up to, in the sense of surrendering to, the mechanical stimuli of urban life, each conceives of the goal of such a process as radically divergent. One might qualify this characte rization since the surre ndering Eliot indexes applies not only to urban sensations (as Cran e explicitly states) but more importantly to a notion of tradition. Crane too was acutely c ognizant of tradition and the necessity for modern poets to "make it new" (as Pound' s slogan decrees). However, while Eliot consistently calls on tradition to lend instit utional standards and stability to each new poet's efforts, Crane relies on tradition to narrow and focus the contemporary poet's field of production: "if my work seems needless ly sophisticated it is because I am only interested in adding what seems to me something really new to what has been written" ( O My Land 70). Richard Strier characterizes Cranes textual approach by quoting from the poets essays: Partial surrende r to the seeming accidents of language is the essence of Cranes poetics. And Crane did not want th e associations produced by these surrenders to be arbitrary and purely pers onal; he wanted them to be . absolute. He wanted meanings to be read out of rath er than into his poems (181). At odds are two different conceptio ns of the modern poet's role. While Eliot and Crane both emphasize the necessity for a consci ous surrendering to experience, how each
121 poet translates this capitulation into verse di ffers significantly. In Eliot's case, as the impersonal theory advanced in "Tradition and the Individual Talent" indicates, the artist undergoes an internal disjunction: "the more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind which creates" ( Selected 41). For Crane, by contrast, the poet does not suffer an interior split but rather attempts to provide the poem with it s own dynamic trajectory: It is my hope to go through the combined materials of the poem, using our "real" world somewhat as a spri ng-board, and to give the poem as a whole an orbit or predetermined direction of its own. I would lik e to establish it as free from my own personality as from any chance evaluation on the reader's part. (This is, of course, an impossibility, but it is a characteristic worth mentioning.) ( CPSLP 220) Whereas Eliot asserts a separation of the poet fr om his work as "the more perfect" artist, Crane qualifies a similar viewpoi nt by recognizing that such an effort derives more from the artist's desire rather than any actualization. As Thomas Yingling suggests, at root Crane's aesthetic is experiential while Eliot' s insists on the segregation between the artist and his specific milieu: While Crane qualifies this by claiming the poet must still obtain some universal perspective to insure that hi s reactions are not simply idiosyncratic, it is clear that he posited a more somatic relation between text and writer than did Eliot (and through him a generation of reader-critics) (19). The direct borrowings of phrases or im ages by Crane from Eliot initially seem relatively minimal: the lovers every third step down the stair (l. 15) of Stark Major
122 recalibrating the young man carbuncular who gr opes his way, finding the stairs unlit (l. 248) in The Waste Land s Fire Sermon; the portrait of The Fernery presenting a composite of figures from Aunt Helen and Cousin Nancy; line 10 of The Wine Menagerie comprising a catalogue which ends with manure rather than the merds of line 12 of Gerontion (not to mention John the Baptist imagery in The Wine Menagerie drawing from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock or the Lazarus reference from the same Eliot poem recurring in the closing lines of The Tunnel); and the tom-tom scrimmage of National Winter Garden echoing Portrait of a Lady. Beyond this short list, one eas ily finds many general Eliotic resonances directly impinging on poems such as For the Marria ge of Faustus and Helen, Ave Maria, The Harbor Dawn, Van Winkle, Southern Cross, and The Tunnel. The penultimate poem in The Bridge The Tunnel, stands as one of the best symbolist modern American poems, yet its odd critical treatment remains emblematic of how Crane and his epics reception have been distorted by subsequent Eliotic lenses. Gregory Woods, for example, detects desp air underneath the whole structure of The Bridge : the poem is profoundly nostalgic, and it s language is itself both the instrument and the object of that nostalgia. In thes e respects, the poem rei nvokes the tendencies of its main model, The Waste Land ; and it also, albeit perhap s inadvertently and only occasionally, reflects on the presen t with a negativism more char acteristic of Eliot than of Crane (50). In a similar light, William Pratt sees the sordidness of The Tunnel as an intractable urban subconscious image of the larger poems conflicted purposes, a contradiction left unresolved in the text:
123 Time, however, has proved Eliots devast ating criticism of the modern city increasingly relevant, while Cranes optimism about the modern city did not even last through the writing of his poem. We read The Waste Land at the end of the century with a sense still of its devastating truthfulness about the moral and spiritual state of man, while we read The Bridge with a sense that Cranes major symbol deserted him, his subconscious pessimism about the modern city having become more truthful than his conscious optimism about it. ( Singing the Chaos 11) One of the critical fountainheads of such an emphasis toward attaching overall negativism to The Bridge resides with Allen Tate: Far from refuting Eliot, [Cranes] whole career is a vindication of Eliots major pr emise--that the integrity of the individual consciousness has broken down (Hart Crane 321). Such readings fail to account for The Bridges nuanced, encyclopedic renditions of many different strata in American culture or the psalm-like hopeful invocations in the concluding lines of The Tunnel or the ways the poem anticipates the dithyrambic raptures of Atlantis. Critic William McMahon points to one of TheBridge s inversions of The Waste Land : Eliots Death by Water se ction, which does not contain a resurrection episode, must be seen in relation to Cranes The Tunnel, which handles a similar death and submergence motif but does include resurrection (396). As the most saturatedly Eliotic of Cranes poems (as well as the only one edito rially published by Eliot), The Tunnel nevertheless occupied an ambiguous position in Cranes larger scheme for The Bridge. Just as he had advised Tate toward willfully extracting the more
124 obvious echoes of Eliot re garding an early poem ( O My Land 129), Crane thought he had accomplished the same maneuver in The Tunnel: the rawness of the subject necessarily demands a certain sort of sensit izing introduction--whic h, if it savors a little of Eliot and his wistfulness, seems nevertheless indispensa ble toward the fixation or due registration of the subsequent developments of the theme. I flatter myself that I drop off the Eliot mood quite a ways before Chambers Street ( O My Land 333). The lines in question (83-91) show the extent to which Crane carries the Eliot mood a bit longer: For Gravesend Manor change at Chambers Street. The platform hurries along to a dead stop. The intent escalator lifts a serenade Stilly Of shoes, umbrellas, each eye attending its shoe, then Bolting outright somewhere above where streets Burst suddenly in rain. . The gongs recur: Elbows and levers, guard and hissing door. Thunder is galvothermic here below. ( Complete 99-100) These lines echo Eliots The Burial of the Dead from The Waste Land Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,/And each man fi xed his eyes before his feet (ll. 64-65), even though the later concludi ng lines of Cranes poem invoke an uncertain yet hopeful perception. Read merely partially, The Tunnel as a synecdoche of The Bridge seems to embody a hopelessness that the larger poem itself may suffer from, but such a reading willfully neglects the redemptive and soci ally inclusive gestures the whole poem contains. For example, the loving address to the motherly Wop washerwoman in lines 100-05 of The Tunnel marks her as Genoese an echo of exiled Columbus from Ave Maria that helps bind th ese disparate parts of The Bridge together. Cranes tactic
125 mimics the palimpsestic blurring of characters in The Waste Land : the one-eyed merchant, seller of currants, melts into the Phoenician Sailor, and the latter is not wholly distinct from Ferdinand Prince of Naples (Eliot, Complete 52 n.218). Even the conclusion of The Tunnel s hows how Crane adapts and diverges from his source in Eliots The Fire Sermon from The Waste Land The Fire Sermon ends in a conflation of Buddhas Fire Sermon and St. Augustines Confessions : To Carthage then I came Burning burning burning burning O Lord Thou pluckest me out O Lord Thou pluckest burning. ( Complete 46) The crescendo of The Fire Sermon appropr iates Elizabethan dict ion to represent St. Augustine in order to give the lines a hei ghtened grandeur, but the underlying sentiment expresses revulsion and rejecti on of the body. This mini-prayer in Eliots poem calls for a renunciation of the flesh; one of the relevant notes to The Waste Land calls attention to the interposed lines from Buddha and St. Augustine: The collocation of these two representatives of eastern and western asceticism, as the culmination of this part of the poem, is not an accident ( Complete 53). Paradoxically, the Fire Sermon ends in a protracted paroxysm of sensual climaxes wh ich nevertheless remain embedded in tropes of corporeal denial. In contrast, concluding sections of The Tunnel also borrow Elizabethan diction (like many Crane poems) to invoke a sense of sublimity, but the mood of urban degradation turns redemptive and inclusive:
126 O caught like pennies beneath soot and steam, Kiss of our agony thou gatherest; Condensed, thou takes all--shrill ganglia Impassioned with some song we fail to keep. And yet, like Lazarus, to feel the slope, The sod and billow breaking,--lifting ground, --A sound of waters bending astride the sky Unceasing with some Word that will not die . * Kiss of our agony Thou gatherest, O Hand of Fire gatherest-(Crane, Complete 100-01) Instead of a desire for ascetic release from somatic experien ce like in The Fire Sermon, the mini-prayer at the climax of The Tunne l calls for an accepta nce and celebration of the city dwellers shared agony. Also, Cranes Hand of Fire imagery in The Tunnel reasserts a spiritual dimension by ec hoing the last lines of Ave Maria from earlier in The Bridge: Te Deum laudamus/O Thou Hand of Fire ( Complete 50). Comparing such passages side by side helps illustrate some of the ways Crane transmutes his Eliotic influence into a different outcome, one whose technique derives from the older poet but whose attitudinal register redirects the predecessors negativism. One of Cranes letters even characterizes such an attempt in relation to Allen Tates persistent criticism: Tates greatest rage against me at ti mes has been on account of my avowed (and defended) effort to transcend these Eliotish sighs and tribulations, and to reach some kind of positive synthesis ( O My Land 380). In one major respect, though, Eliot and Crane approach the modern poet's role from the same standpoint. Eliot's explic ation of the "mythic method" in Joyce's Ulysses
127 (a system of scaffolding which retrospectively ap plied both to The Waste Land and Crane's "For the Marriage of Faustus and Helen") clarifies the strategy Eliot often employed himself: Mr. Joyce is pursuing a method which others must pursue after him. They will not be imitators, any more than th e scientist who uses the discoveries of an Einstein in pursuing his own, i ndependent, further investigations. It is simply a way of controlling, of ordering, of giving a shape and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history. ( Selected 177) In remarkably similar terms, Allen Tate's introduction to Crane's first volume White Buildings focuses on the dilemma these modern poets share: "The important contemporary poet has the rapidly diminishing privilege of reorgani zing the subjects of the past. He must construct and assimila te his own subjects. Dante had only to assimilate his" (Introduction 53). Crane saw the modern poet's role in much the same way, yet his conception of the poet's synthesizi ng function is more in clusive than either Eliot's or Tate's suggestions: one needs to ransack the vocabularies of Shakespeare, Jonson, Webster (for theirs were the richest) and add our scientific street and counter, and psychological terms, etc. Yet, I claim that such things can be done! The modern artist needs gigantic assimilative cap acities, emotion,--and the greatest of all -vision ( O My Land 137). Even though this chapter relies on primar y sources, we can conclude that Eliot's influence on Crane was a substantial and lasting one in many respects. Crane's
128 "rejection" of Eliot stemmed more from the way Eliotic pessimism was taken as a template for the modern period rather than a ny denial of Eliot's aes thetic or technical approaches to verse. Crane's early rec ognition that "the audience for my work will always be quite small" ( O My Land 70) finally proved prophetic when those around him whom he counted on to understand and apprec iate his work denigrated its naivete (especially when compared to Eliotic cynicism) and mistook its optimism for inappropriate affirmation. Crane foresaw this development when he began The Bridge and Eliot's "The Hollow Men" seemed to dominate the literary landscape of the midtwenties; he almost seems to be talking to himself when he ponders the conclusion of "The Hollow Men": is this acceptable or not as the poetic determinism of our age?! I, of course, can say no, to myself, and believe it. But in the face of such a stern conviction of death on the part of the only group of people whose verbal sophisticati on is likely to take an interest in a style such as mine--what can I expect? ( O My Land 230-31). Eliot himself hints at an unstable, wavering lin e between influence and appropriation: the difference between influence and imitation is that influence can fecundate, whereas imitation--especially unconscious imitation--can only sterilize. . imitation of a writer in a foreign language can often be pr ofitable--because we cannot succeed ( To Criticize 1819). Next to Eliots comments, Cranes epis tolary reflections on translating Laforgues Locutions Des Pierrots sound uncannily familiar: There are always people to class ones admirations and enthusiams illegitimate, and though I still have the dictionary close by when I take up a french book, a certain sympathy with Laforgues attitude made me an
129 easier translator . than perhap s an accomplished linguist might have been. However, no one ought to be particularly happy about a successful translation. ( O My Land 85) The doubt and vulnerability Crane displays in borrowing from the French Symbolists seem far removed from the superfic ially assured veneer Eliot exhibits in his later career (at least after The Hollow Men). As Anna Balakian intimates, Eliots later adherence to narration, descrip tion, and overtly philosophical diction runs counter to the symbolist tendencies of his formative period: symbolism marks a stage in [Eliots] development as a man of letters, after which a definite break occurs in th e direction he takes. Although he suggests that the influences of Laforgue and the metaphysical poets of seventeenth-century England are concurrent influences on him. They seem to have operated, in effect, a conflict in him, and the metaphysical wins out in the end over the symbolist. ( Symbolist Movement 173) Poetically, Eliot very nearly abandons sy mbolist aesthetics af ter 1925, whereas Crane consistently employs and keeps m odifying a symbolist aesthetic in The Bridge and later Key West poems such as To the Cloud Juggler , The Idiot, Royal Palm, and O Carib Isle! Albert Gelpis summation of this historical differentiation looks accurate: The development of Symbolisme in France and its far-reaching and longlasting impact on poetry in English . mark a shift from the Romantic location of the individual in the cosmos to the exploration of internal states recorded and even created in the act of language. Eliot reviewed that
130 development in his 1948 essay From Poe to Valry as testimony to his own exorcism of vestigial Symboliste influences from his later poetry. But Crane was a purer Symboliste than Eliot. (395) Eliot is the modernist poet w ho turns away from a symbolis t approach in practice but nevertheless retains a deep-seated affiliation with and respect for the French Symbolists who helped him metamorphose from a bundle of second-hand sentiments into a person. One line from Eliots essay From Poe to Valry touches directly on the aesthetic conduit which I have been sketching out running from Poe to the French Symbolists and back to Crane: [Poes poetry] has the effect of an incantation which, because of its very crudity, stirs the feelings at a deep and almost primitive level ( To Criticize 31). The mysterious quality that accompanies poetic influence remains elusive to any sort of definitive critical definition, but modern symbolist claims built around an embroiling yet temporary love affair or the lone poet affixing ne w productions to some ideal order of historical monu ments should not limit the horiz on of investigation in this field. Newer classifications might bring us closer to a just appreciation; David Bromwich, for example, volunteers affinity as a more apt term to describe the relationship between Crane and Eliot in a tr iangulation with Allen Tates greatest poem: The influence of Gerontion on th e Ode to the Confederate Dead differs in character from the influence of The Waste Land on The Bridge. In the first case the relation is that of principle and illustration, in the second that of statement and counter-s tatement. Affinity seems a truer word than influence to describe the latter sort of kinship. (50)
131 Haskell Block once confided to me in a private conversation that affinity would encompass a more accurate assessment of Cran es relationship to the French Symbolists than influence. Other models might prove just as illu minating. Despite the passionate language that suffuses Eliots and Cranes reflectio ns regarding poetic influence, an older adversarial critical model such as Harold Blooms Anxiety of Influence may misrepresent the creative dynamic involved, particularly given the sexually charged valence surrounding Eliots early poems. A relevant pa ssage from the interview with Allen Tate in John Untereckers Voyager may prove useful in contextualizing, or sexualizing, our notions of influence between these poets: [Crane] said, I admire Eliot very much too. Ive had to work through him, but hes the prime ram of our flock, which meant that in those days a lot of people like Hart had the delusion that Eliot was homosexual. Ram of our flock I didnt get onto until later, and when I knew Hart, much later, we joked about it. Then, right after that, he sent me in typescript his poem Praise for an Urn, which appeared in the Dial a month or two later. I thought it was a very beautiful poem. Even now, Im astonished that a boy of 21 or 22 could have written it. (240) Robert K. Martin suggests a retabulation in our critical notion of influence that might have some bearing on the developmental interrelatedness between Crane and Eliot outside the strictures of Harold Blooms Anxiety of Influence :
132 Blooms paradigm, rooted as it is in a Freudian view of competition between father and son, is heterosexual in its assumptions and inadequate for dealing with the more complex relationship between an older and younger poet in a homosexual context, where there may be a significant element of erotic attraction involved in influence. The master-protg relationship might be a more usef ul model for such relationships. (236n.51) Whichever way we try to refine our understanding of literary in fluence, whether as crisis of passion, struggle for Oedipal dominance, or tension between master and apprentice, in the case of Eliot and Crane the elder poet serv ed as a model and yardstick of achievement against which Crane could meas ure his own growth throughout th e whole of his career. Almost as significantly, Eliot (and Pound) in la rge part introduced Crane to the French Symbolists, the poets whose aes thetics and techniques Crane most adapts into his own idiom.
133 Chapter Three Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Crane Voil! cest le Sicle denfer! Et les poteaux tlgraphiques Vont orner,--lyre aux chants de fer, Tes omoplates magnifiques! [There now! It is the Century of hell! And the telegraph poles Will embellish,--lyre with iron voice, Your magnificent shoul der blades! (Fowlie, Rimbaud 115)] The following discussion does not intend to presen t an exhaustive or comprehensive account of Hart Cranes prodigious borrowings from the French Symbolists. My aim is more modest: in atte mpting to demonstrate the clear affinities in aesthetics and techniques between Hart Crane, Charles Baudelaire, and Arthur Rimbaud, I am trying to contribute toward a fuller co llective understanding of Cranes place in the symbolism of modern American poetry al ong the lines hinted at by Henri Peyre: There is no way of making even a summary sketch of what one might call the various European and American sym bolisms and to evaluate what they sought from France and thought they had found there. Such a task could only be approached by a constellation of specialists intimately versed in the national languages, and not French by preference, for a certain
134 patriotic vanity slips easi ly into these subjects. Our conviction remains, moreover, that in every spiritual ex change the influence (and its capacity for assimilation and imaginative tran sformation) counts infinitely more than the person from whom the influence emanates. (140) The following analysis aims to sketch out some of the many parallels between Cranes symbolist methods and those of Baudelaire a nd Rimbaud and then explore the ways in which he assimilated and transformed their insights and techniques. Conventional views of when Hart Crane be gins to adopt symbolist elements into his poems typically restrict this phase to the early twenties after an Imagist apprenticeship; R. W. B. Lewis vi ew is fairly representative: The symboliste -Eliot aspect . was in the ascendancy in Crane's ear ly creative years, and it reached its peak in 1920 and 1921" (9). Cranes exposure to the French Symbolists, how ever, actually dates almost from the inception of his publishi ng career. Margaret Foster shows the considerable extent to which Cranes second published poem, October-November (1916), is indebted to a series of Imagis t Symphonies by John Gould Fletcher, which in turn derived their style from Rimbaud (Foster 62-64). More significantly, Cranes third poem, The Hive, displays the unmistakable tincture of symbolisme deriving much of its imagery from Baudelaire: Up the chasm-walls of my bleeding heart Humanity pecks, claws, sobs, and climbs; Up the inside, and over every part Of the hive of the world that is my heart.
135 And of all the sowing, an d all the tear-tendering, And reaping, have mercy and love issued forth. Mercy, white milk, and honey, gold love-And I watch, and say, These the anguish are worth. (137) The poems dominant image seems ad apted from Baudelaires sonnet Causerie , particularly the sestet [all unatt ributed translations are my own]: Mon coeur est un palais fltri par la cohue; On sy sole, on sy tue, on sy prend aux cheveux! --Un parfum nage autour de votre gorge nue!... O Beaut, dur flau des mes, tu le veux! Avec tes yeux de feu, brilliants comme des ftes, Calcine ces lambeaux quont pargns les btes! [My heart is a palace wrecked by the mob; They get drunk there, fight, tear each other's hair! --A perfume floats around your naked throat!... O Beauty, tough scourge of souls, you want it! With your eyes of fire, brilliant as red feasts, Burn up these tatters salvaged from the beasts!] As usual, of course, Crane transfigures hi s symbolist sources and often modifies the direction of their emotional trajectories. While both poems revolve around images of crowds and personal suffering, The Hive alters the despair and erot ic invitation at the end of Causerie into a feeling of temporary respite and satiety. Despite the agricultural tropes Crane employs--sowing, watering (teartendering), and reaping--the central image in The Hive appears to be a reflection of the metropolis, or rather ag ricultural imagery superimpos ed onto a cityscape. Langdon Hammer suggests how The Hiv e bears the stamp of Cranes lyric signature in spite of its rhetorical or allegorical simplicity: This poem is juvenile work, but it is recognizably
136 Cranes in its intricate, compressed syntax; its formal decorum and dignity; its exaggerated, expressionistic figures of speech ; its earnestness and passion; and above all in its ethical concern with the worth of passion (O My Land 4). The swarm imagery may also derive from crowd descriptions in other Baudelaire poems such as Au Lecteur , Les Petites Vieilles , or Le Crpuscule du soir. Anne Kilner Winters cites this last poem (for its connection with urban prostitution) in her discussion of the confluence between The Hive and Baudela ire, the earliest such notice (1993): Crane at several points slips into s warming figures for the crowds in Manhattan . It would be possible, of course, to assume that the immediate source of such echoes of Ba udelaires lines was Eliots citation of them in the notes to The Waste Land But as early as 1917, in a poem called The Hive, wri tten about his first encounter with New Yorks multitudes, Crane had already used Ba udelaires metaphor. Perhaps this was one of the poems he or Loveman had translated, but in any case swarm-imagery abounds in Baudelaire. (40) Anne Winters reference to translation needs clarif ying: Samuel Loveman, who would eventually become executor of the poet s estate after the deat h of his mother, met Crane in 1921 in Cleveland, even though the earliest mention of their acquaintance occurs in a letter from June 1922: You will li ke my classic, puritan, inhibited friend, Sam Loveman who translates Baudelaire charmingly! ( O My Land 92). Although Crane indicated a familiarity with Baudelaire in a brief essay entitled Joyce and Ethics in The Little Review s July 1918 issue, another letter fr om February 1920 also mentions the
137 French poet: Just now I am deep in Baudelaires Fleurs du Mal and wont brook anything healthful or cheer y about the place (Weber, Letters 33). As Crane had begun studying French in 1917, his reference to read ing Baudelaire may indicate access to the French text or perhaps just the translated collect ion edited by T. R. Smith in 1919 which Tate alludes to in his letter to Fowlie: C rane knew more about Baudelaire than Rimbaud. He was easier to decipher. He pored over th e original, but he actually read again and again the Baudelaire translation in the Modern Library Series (Fowlie, Poem and Symbol 154). Baudelaires Les Petites Vieilles possibly furnishes a source for the imagery of The Hive (as opposed to its more obvious origin behind the ancient women/Gathering fuel in vacant lots in part IV of Eliots Preludes or the rifts of torn and empty houses/Like old women with teeth unjubilant in part III of Cranes For the Marriage of Faustus and Helen) since swarming imager y appears in lines 25-26 of Baudelaires Little Old Women, Et lorsque jentrevois un fantm e dbile/Traversant de Paris le fourmillant tableau (when I see a lame phantom/Cross Paris swarming scene), in Walchs Anthologie, which Crane owned in 1917 (Lohf, Library 288). When discussed at all, The Hive is normally seen as important in Crane studies mostly because this poem prompted Cranes mo ther to suggest he change his professional name from Harold Crane or Harold H. Cr ane to Hart Crane in a letter on March 29, 1917 (Lewis, Letters 55). The H, short for Hart (his mothers maiden name), was omitted for the first time in his professional car eer with the publication of The Hive. Untereckers version of the story reads,
138 In later years, after his final break with his mother, Hart would assure Lorna Dietz that it wasnt his mother s letter that had induced him to change his name but rather his hatr ed of the shrill Haaaarooooold she had used through his childhood to call him in from play. But for whatever reason--and affection is the most likely one--the next poem he published was signed Harold H. Crane and all subsequent ones Hart Crane ( Voyager 74) Unterecker may be conflati ng items here as the next two poems Crane published, Fear and Annuciations, were both attributed to Harold H. Crane, though they appeared in the same issue of The Pagan (April-May 1917). The first use of Hart Crane occurred with the publication of Echoes in the October-November 1917 issue of The Pagan Curiously enough, the first recorded use of the poet signing his name Hart occurred in a letter to his father on August 8, 1917: ironica lly it is one of the fe w times that the poet used the name Hart in letters to his father. To the Crane side of the family he remained Harold, while for his mothers side he became Hart. (Lewis, Letters 67). The first time Crane signed a letter to his mother using Hart occurred on September 28, 1917 (Lewis, Letters 70), the cut-off date Lohf used to help categorize th e books in Cranes library the poet did not date himself. I belabor this minor point of literary history in order to call attention to the importance of French poets to the whole of Cranes artistic development. Though space limitations prompt me to focus an analysis only on the affinities between Crane and Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Mallar m, more exhaustive research is needed to trace Cranes
139 debts to the minor symbolistes To point toward a small example, Hammer aptly calls My Grandmothers Love Letters the f irst poem of Cranes maturity ( O My Land 8), yet no one heretofore has investigated Crane s admission that [Charles] Vildrac is the one who set me on the track of the Grandm other mood, and it is odd that our poems [Witter Bynners poems and translations of Vildrac] should have come out in the same issue [of The Dial April 1920] ( O My Land 39). As Crane ordered French texts of Laforgue, Rimbaud, and Vildrac which arrived in October 1920, the source Crane used to get set on the track of the delicate m ood in My Grandmothers Love Letters may derive from the Walch anthology, one of th e two volumes of French verse edited by Lon-Adolphe Gauthier-Ferrires, Anthologie des crivains Franais du XIX e Sicle which Crane also owned, Vildracs Livre dAmour or some other text. My Grandmothers Love Letters was th e first poem for which Crane received payment, and he described its publication as a sexual and professiona l transaction: [it] tempted The Dial to part with ten dollars, my fi rst litry money,--the seduction was complete (Weber, Letters 32). Despite claims that throughout his career Crane managed to publish without much difficulty al most everything he submitted (Schwartz, Recognition 93), the density and experiment al symbolist underpinnings in his method repeatedly thwarted his reception by Ameri can publishers and editors. The Boni and Liveright firm originally agreed to publish his first volume, White Buildings only if Eugene ONeill would write the preface (for the fullest account of the episode, see Marc Simons Eugene ONeills Introduction). Crane complained about the situation bitterly: I have enough enthusiasm from ot her astute and discriminating people in
140 America to make me feel that my writings are justified. Publishers shy at it, of course, because they know it wont make them money. Meanwhile the same flood of mediocrities in verse continues to be prin ted, bound and sold year after year (Weber, Letters 212). Crane encountered repeated difficultie s with the editors at the two most prestigious poetry journals of the day, Harriet Monroe at Poetry and Marianne Moore at The Dial yet monetary pressure often forced hi m to compromise his work in seeking their approval. The most egregious case is Moores truncated editing of The Wine Menagerie, about a third of which was published as Again in The Dials May 1926 issue. Cranes response was predictable: What it all mean s now I cant make out, and I would never have consented to such an outrageous joke if I had not so desperately needed the twenty dollars ( O My Land 210). His most scathing co mplaint in this regard concerned the submission of The Dance to The Dial in 1927 (which printed it without changes in the October issue): Ive had to submit it to Ma rianne Moore recently, as my only present hope of a little cash. But she probably will object to the word breasts, or some such detail. Its really ghastly. I wonder how much longer our market will be in the grip of two such hysterical virgins as the Dial and Poetry ! ( O My Land 319). In a way, the sexualized discourse Crane resorts to in discussing his publ ication frustrations reflects a certain degree of misogyny as well as a thoroughgoing disrespect for the repressively restrictive modern American cult ure within which he had to work. Cranes opaque symbolist orientation also partly accounts for the lukewarm reception he frequently received from literary editors.
141 Passage, for instance, is an accomplished symbolist poem which was rejected by both Moore at The Dial and by Eliot at The Criterion before being accepted by Edgell Rickword for Britains Calendar in July 1926 nearly a year after its completion the previous summer. In typical fashion (for Crane the latest project was usually uppermost in his estimation if it came near achieving hi s goals), he called it t he most interesting and conjectural thing I have wr itten--being merely the latest I suppose, and then in the same letter quoted Moores comments verba tim: We could not but be moved, as you must know, by the rich imagination and sensib ility in your poem, Passage. Its multiform content accounts, I suppose, for what seems to us a lack of simplicity and cumulative force. We are sorry to return it ( O My Land 205). What Moore calls the poems multiform content lies at the heart of Cran es neo-symbolist approach: Passage is not just a straightforward narrative rite de passage as the title might suggest, nor is it solely concerned with the fluctuati ons and dissatisfactions of e volving identity, nor does it revolve simplistically around the impossibility and ineffability of representation, whether of the self or external reality, t hough the poem addresses all these issues. Symboliste criture like Cranes involves using words with precision to mean more than only one or two things; that is, the poems multiform content--even from phrase to phrase or image to image--aims at accurate statement while sti ll invoking a multiplicity of meanings and evoking moods or states of consciousness. Passage commences with the sort of audacious and evocative imagery for which Crane is famous:
142 Where the cedar leaf divides the sky I heard the sea. In sapphire arenas of the hills I was promised an improved infancy. (21) Harold Blooms reading of the poem misgui dedly superimposes an Oedipal theme of struggling to overtop Whitman and Wordsworth as poetic predecessors by focusing exclusively on the poems exploration of identity, yet Blooms characterization of the opening stanzas precocity is apt: Is there a more outrageously American, Emersonian concept and phrase than an improved infancy ? (Introduction 6). To a large extent, Blooms emphasis on his own theo ry--the anxiety of influence--prompts him to recycle the specious argument first advanced by Y vor Winters that Cranes primary literary forebears are Emerson and Whitman. Such readings depend on th e poems deceptively contorted narrative: though a sequential procession seems to lend a shape to the images in the first four stanzas of Passage, pivoting around a willed abandonment in line six (My memory I left in a ravine), the landscape remains a blend of ear thy details (buckwheat boulders, rain, red and black/Vine-stanchioned valleys) and human habitations (moonlit bushels and alleys) which combine to evoke a barely conscious attitude of freedom and selfempowerment, hinted at by the speakers parenthetical claim I had joined the entrainments of the wind. The juxtaposed descriptions, however, are far from naturalistic in any conventiona l sense; instead, the poems image clusters echo off one another to evoke an internal world of the mind. The method approximates the symbolist ideal of la posie pure evoking a psychological as well as a physical
143 landscape: Since poetry consists of words, the more poetry inclines away from descriptive referentiality to ward autotelic self-referen tiality and hypostasized selfsubsistence, the more purely evocative the language (Gelpi 56). As Ernest Smith intimates, however, the symbolic texture of the opening lines of Passage is not only conceptually suggestive in its tactile qualities but thema tically important as well: Crane again employs a form of synaesthesia, hearing the sea while observing a single leaf against the sky, perhaps tinkling in the wind. These lines, which by themselves woul d form a delicate oriental tonepoem, also suggest the working imagination of a highly attuned sensibility. To see the sky as divid ed by a leaf in the foreground is more than an unusual observation; it also portends the division of the self that the poem explores, beginning with the fourth line. (61) Viewing the central struggle of Passage as solely one of identity splitting--the speaker divorced from memory yet strivi ng to defend a vocational status as poet-superficially seems reasonable enough, but al most no commentator has noticed that the poem involves as many as four characters: th e wind, an interlocutor, the thief, and the speaker (possibly a fifth if one differentiates between the present speaker in the poem from his incarnation prior to abandoning mem ory). Thus the poem should not be read in a conventionally reductive way as embodying merely an internal debate. The fourth stanza clearly addresses an inte rlocutor, a chimney-sooted he art of man, distinct from the speaker who nonetheless occupies an analogous position; such a maneuver universalizes the implications of unfulfille d success beyond the confines of the speaker:
144 It is not long, it is not long; See where the red and black Vine-stanchioned vall eys--: but the wind Died speaking through the ages that you know And hug, chimney-sooted heart of man! So was I turned about and back, much as your smoke Compiles a too well known biography. (21) Contemporary queer theorists, of course, often seize on the phrase a too well known biography to lament the degree to which Cranes personal life has dogged his reputation, yet the yoking of smoke to a presence which ha s been transformed or forgotten, often in a funereal or crematory dimension, occurs in other poems like Emblems of Conduct [By that time summer and smoke were past./Dolphins still played, arching the horizons,/But only to build memories of spiritual gates (5)], the tenth quatrain of The Dance which presages the approach of the transformative thunder-bud, or in the famous allusions to the failure of representation at the conclusion of Praise for an Urn: Scatter these well-meant idioms Into the smoky spring that fills The suburbs, where they will be lost. They are no trophies of the sun. (8) Such patterns (linking smoke with biogra phy, for example, or seeing a cedar leaf divide the sky) not only rev eal a consistency in Crane s manner of troping but also indicate the range of his metaphorical innovations. As Blackmur remarks of Cranes symbolic descriptions in another context, The freshness has nothing to do with accurate observation, of which it is devoid, but has it s source in the arbitrary character of the association: it is crea ted observation (137).
145 The most astonishing created observations in Passage unravel in the poems harrowing conclusion after the sp eaker returns to the ravine, touches an opening laurel (a traditional Apolloni an symbol of poetic mastery with which the speaker must argue), and confronts A thief beneath, my stolen book in hand (21). Trying to recover memory from the stolen book, the speaker just ifies trespassing (paradoxically, both the thief and the speaker are transgressors ) on the grounds of transience and incomprehension, fleeing /Under the constant wonder of your eyes, before the poems apocalyptic ending: He closed the book. And from the Ptolemies Sand troughed us in a glittering abyss. A serpent swam a vertex to the sun --On unpaced beaches leaned its tongue and drummed. What fountains did I hear? what icy speeches? Memory, committed to the page, had broke. (22) The poems conclusion halts at the limit of articulation, suggesting in immanent form a theme of identity fractured by lingui stic circumlocutions, one which is strongly Rimbaldian in flavor and that represents in one sense the extent to which Rimbaud and Crane develop beyond Baudelairean strictures: The extremity of the poetic gesture he re frees Rimbaud from the devious ironic discipline of Baudelaires wor k. The poet is no longer double but caught up in the shock-waves of his own exploding identity. Where Baudelaires risk-taking in the city had involved a calculated play of aloofness and surrender . Rimbaud seems determined to destroy the very axis of the se lf. (Nicholls 29-30)
146 Tates letter to Fowlie specifically mentions Passage as an example of the more than superficial likeness betw een Crane and Rimbaud: It was not influence that accounts, in my opinion, for the parallel; I am convinced that Crane would have been essentially the same--except possibly for one poem, Passage, which is interesting but not first-rate-had he never known anything about Ri mbaud. I suppose the same thing was bound to happen to our romanticism that had happened two generations earlier in France. For this reason I think we may say that Cranes poetry came, historically, a little late, Eliot having already passed through that stage of romanticism before Crane had written a line. (Fowlie, Poem and Symbol 154) Though Tate is not explicit, the li terary evolution out of romanticism to which he refers is the symbolist stream of modernism. Eliot s progression along this current receded after the mid-twenties, but Cranes symbolist orientation remained constant throughout his career. Though a bit overly schematic, Gelpi s attempt at historical ly situating Cranes poetic approach is relatively accurate: Cranes sensibility and his aesthetic, as a matter of fact, wavered uncertainly between Modernism and Romanticism; his compromise was Symboliste. . he settled fo r converting the nuances of rela tivity into a poetry whose synesthetic logic pushed those nuances to ward a verbal cohe siveness beyond mere accident (419). Tracing the myriad resonances and echoes of Rimbaud in Cranes work remains a prodigious enterprise. The di ssertations by Margaret Fost er and Diane Garden do the
147 most detailed jobs thus far of drawing sp ecific connections between the two poets, but many critics have tracked the threads between Rimbaud and Cranes magnificent Voyages sequence. Though initially skeptica l in 1989, I have since been convinced of the perspicuity of Donald Justices hint to me that The Dance owed a great debt to Rimbauds Le Bateau ivre (The Drunken Boat). Rimbaud represented a form of poetic revolt and experimentation which influe nced the entirety of Cranes career; the new kinds of poetry Rimbaud calls for in Ce quon dit au pote propos de fleurs , ones with electric butterflies and telegraph poles as lyre strings, would be answered by the poems of Hart Crane.
148 Chapter Four: Mallarm and Cranes Neo-Symbolist Poetics Hart Crane assimilated the chief poetic currents of his time in remarkably quick fashion. Cranes precocity and early master y of such a wide range of poetic forms remains nearly unmatched among American poe ts, yet scant attention has focused on his affinities with Stphane Mallarm. In many ways, Mallarm and Crane articulate poetic approaches which represent th e nearest theoretical embodime nt of symbolist aesthetics yet produced by poets themselves. Though neither Crane nor Mallarm is considered a systematic literary theorist, their aesthetic a pproaches overlap and parallel one another in several specific dimensions, most importantl y, symbolist poetrys incantatory creation of a new word, the necessity of a sophisticated readership in appreciating the shorthand methods of symboliste criture, and an emphasis on verse rather than the versifier. While in all his letters Crane makes only one passing mention of Mallarm, grouping the elder poet with Huysmans as elegant weepers juxtaposed to the comedy of the Dadaists in vogue in 1922 ( O My Land 81), Crane and Mallarm pen remarkably similar descriptions of their poetic aims. Richard Strier and Eric Sundquist remain the only critics to have noted the resemblance be tween the new word at the conclusion of Mallarms Crisis in Verse essay and a ke y section of Cranes essay General Aims and Theories, but the passages warrant re -viewing. Notice how both passages address the effect as well as the aftereffect that sy mbolist poetry aspires toward; Mallarm says,
149 Out of a number of words, poetry fashions a single new word which is total in itself and foreign to the langu age--a kind of incantation. Thus the desired isolation of language is eff ected; and chance (which might still have governed these elements, despite their artful and alternating renewal through meaning and sound) is thereby instantly and thor oughly abolished. Then we realize, to our amazement, th at we had never truly heard this or that ordinary poetic fragment; and, at the same time, our recollection of the object thus conjured up bathes in a totally new atmosphere. ( Selected 43) Mallarm would go on to explore the impo ssible ideal of abo lishing chance in his revolutionary poem Un Coup des ds (A Throw of the Dice). Nonetheless, one wonders how Crane devised such a parallel assessment, especially since the slight, posthumous Vers de Circonstance from 1920 was the lone extant Mallarm book Crane owned at his death (Lohf, Library 318), and very few English translations of Mallarm existed by the mid-twenties when Crane presum ably wrote General Aims and Theories: Its evocation will not be toward decoration or amusement, but rather toward a state of consciousness, an innocence (Blake) or absolute beauty. In this condition there may be discoverable under new forms certain spiritual illuminations, shining with a morality essentialized from experience directly, and not from previ ous precepts or preconceptions. It is as though a poem gave the reader as he left it a single, new word never
150 before spoken and impossible to actually enunciate, but se lf-evident as an active principle in the readers consciousness henceforward. ( CPSLP 221) Whereas Mallarm suggests the new word of a symbolist poem remains on some level foreign to the [originary] language and t hus a kind of incantation whose novelty lingers for the readers recoll ection bathe[d] in a new atmosp here, Crane posits that his type of absolute (or what I am calling neo-sy mbolist) poem also persists in an extralingual realm--never before spoken and impossi ble to actually enun ciate--which still functions as a self-evident active principle in the readers subsequent consciousness. Both Crane and Mallarm engage in a quest for poetic aftereffects which exceed the strict limits of their native tongues. Pe rhaps such a quest necessitates forays into other languages. Even though Mallarm himsel f claimed, I learned English simply in order to be able to read Poe better ( Selected 15), a critic like Josp eh Chiari may be onto something when he suggests learning English represented an attempt to expand the capacities of language: In the case of Mallarm it is quite possible that a sufficient, yet incomplete knowledge of English, together wi th the exercise of translation, may have given to the French language an elasticity hitherto unexplor ed, a freedom in the use of words hitherto unknown and a syntactic supple ness hitherto unwarranted (78-79). Such cross-pollination lies behind Jacques Derridas assessmen t that Mallarms language is always open to the influence of the English language, that there is a regular exchange between the two, and that the problem of this exchange is explicitly treated in Les mots anglais. For this reason alone, Mallarm does not belong completely to French literature (125). In short, I contend Crane studied the French Sym bolists for much the
151 same reason Mallarm studied Poe in English-to widen the capacities of poetic language at the poets disposal, and some of the effects Crane discovered can be traced back through the circuit of influence from Poe to the French Symbolists. Such a notion infuses Eliots characterization of the appeal to those French poets of an unchanging immediacy in Poes poetry: It has the effect of an incantation which, because of its very crudity, stirs the feelings at a deep and almost primitive level ( To Criticize 31). Further links between Crane and Mallarm can be seen in At Melvilles Tomb, a poem with a particularly Mallarmean air (Kugel 100n.8). In addition to alluding indirectly toward Mallarms Tombeaux poems for Poe, Baudelaire, and Verlaine, some of the imagery in Cranes At Melvilles Tomb seems deliberately to invoke key lines from the fantastic Toast funbre, Thophile Gautier : A qui svanouit, hier, dans le devoir Idal que nous font les jardins de cet astre, Survivre pour lhonneur du tranquille dsastre Une agitation solennelle par lair De paroles, pourpre ivre et grand calice clair, Que, pluie et diamant, le regard diaphane Rest l sur ces fleurs dont nulle ne se fane, Isole parmi lheure et le rayon du jour! (ll.40-47) For one who has now vanished into the ideal Duty we are given by the gardens of that star, A solemn agitation of language in the air, In commemoration of a calm catastrophe, Vast translucent calyx and purple ecstasy That, diamond and rain, with gaze forever clear Remaining on those flowers, of which none disappear, Isolates in the hour and radiance of the day! ( Collected 45)
152 Crane echoes these lines in quatrains two and three (ll. 5-12) of At Melvilles Tomb: And wrecks passed without sound of bells, The calyx of deaths bounty giving back A scattered chapte r, 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. ( Complete 33) As the editor at Poetry magazine, Harriet Monroe admitted baffled interest in At Melvilles Tomb, asked Cran e to justify its succession of champion mixed metaphors, and then printed his epistolary answer eluc idating the logic of metaphor alongside the poem and her own original request and subse quent reply in the October 1926 issue. Regarding the calyx of deaths bounty, Crane writes, This calyx refers in a double ironic sense both to a cornucopia and th e vortex made by a sinking vessel ( O My Land 281). Diane Garden shows how the whirlpool image implicit in the flower leads to the bounty of a cornucopia, and in doing so she illustrates a kind of fundamental symbolist progression: Calyx and cor nucopia are connected by mean s of visual association-their conical shape, and not through logic. Cr ane chooses an object, leaves literal reality behind, and then moves into a series of metaphor s . He is not interested in the thing itself but the state of mind it elicits (Hart Crane Goes to School 77). This last sentence, of course, reiterates one of the mo st famous slogans of Mallarm: paint, not the thing, but the effect which it produces ( Commemorative 27). One wonders too if the frosted eyes . that lifted altars image in At Melvilles Tomb (as well as the lost morning eyes of lifted swimmers in Voyage s VI) might owe something to a prose line
153 from Mallarms essay Sacred Pleasure: B ehold eyes, lost, ecsta tically, outside their curiosity! ( Commemorative 115). Besides borrowing specific images and the rapid concretion of metaphors technique, Cranes letter to Monroe also articulates an aesthetic approach whose parameters resemble those of Mallarm. For example, in an interview Mallarm distinguished the symbolist method from the then-dominant mode of descriptive Naturalism: literature is more of an intellectua l thing than that. Thi ngs already exist, we dont have to create them; we simply have to see their relationships. It is the threads of those relationships which go to make up poetry and music ( Selected 23-24). One of the starkest passages from Cranes letter to Monroe on the log ic of metaphor sounds eerily reminiscent of Mallarm: As a poet I may very possibly be more interested in the so-called illogical impingements of the connotations of words on the consciousness (and their combinations and interplay in metaphor on this basis) than I am interested in the preserva tion of their logically ri gid significations at the cost of limiting my subject matter and perceptions involved in the poem. This may sound as though I merely fancied juggling words and images until I found something novel, or esoter ic; but the process is much more predetermined and objec tified than that. (O My Land 278) Though Mallarm and Crane both pursue the psycholingual creation of a new word, one distinction may indicate the diffe rence between symbolist and neo-symbolist orientations. Mallarm, like Baudelaire and the other symbolists, worked in reaction to a
154 relatively unified culture, even if one of disbelief and revolt. In such a milieu, Mallarm could on some level sincerely say, all earthly ex istence must ultimately be contained in a book ( Selected 24), or write the foll owing free of irony: Languages are imperfect because multiple; the supreme language is missing. Inasmuch as thought consists of writing without pen and paper, without whispering even, without th e sound of the immortal Word, the diversity of languages on earth mean s that no one can utter words which would bear the miraculous stam p of Truth Herself Incarnate. ( Selected 38) For American neo-symbolists like Crane, Elio t, or Stevens, the fragmented culture of modernism forced the artist to confront any kind of verbal idealism with skepticism and irony, as in The word within a word, unabl e to speak a word,/Swaddled in darkness from Eliots Gerontion (the explicitly Christian context of the Word in Ash Wednesday and the Four Quartets embodies an attempt at forced regression to that earlier unified sensibility). In his prose, Crane admits, Language has built towers and bridges, but itself is inevita bly as fluid as always ( CPSLP 223), but in his poems Crane is one of the last poets to employ the grand style--and its underlying idealism-unironically through most of his career. From the progression of Creations blithe and petalled word to the imaged Word of Voyages VI, to the incognizable Word of Eden in Ave Maria, to the held out hope of some Word that will not die! in The Tunnel, to the wonderfully orgasmic m ultitudinous Verb of Atlantis, Crane consistently clings to a belief in the efficacy of the Word as an po ssible incarnation of life
155 or desire. Only in his last poem, The Broken Tower, does the poet overtly question the estrangement between his word and the Word: And so it was I entered the broken world To trace the visionary company of love, its voice An instant in the wind (I know not whither hurled) But not for long to hold each desperate choice. My word I poured. But it was cognate, scored Of that tribunal monarch of the air Whose thigh embronzes earth, strikes crystal Word In wounds pledged once to hope--cleft to despair? ( Complete 160) For more than seventy years, few schol ars have kept tryi ng to elucidate the nuances of the means by which Crane enacts these impingements of the connotations of words on the consciousness a nd their connections to Mallarms practices. Yvor Winters, for example, asserts that Repose of Rivers proceeds along the same lines of development as Surgi de la croupe et du bonde (Sprung From the Croup and the Flight) by Mallarm: the words are constan tly balancing on, almost slipping from, the outermost edge of their possible meaning. Thei r meaning is defined frequently not by the dictionary, but by their relation to other words about them in the same predicament. . Everything in the line is strangely incandescent, seething, alive ( Uncollected 247). So far as the individually evocativ e symbols in Repose of Rivers lead to an overall sensory impression laden with psychological significan ce, Winters claim of resemblance holds true; to a degree, the liberating implosion of identity in Cranes Repose of Rivers resembles the weary regret tinged with hope in Mallarms poem, but the resemblance mainly derives from the suggestive, intuitive response underlying each poem.
156 One might cite other seemingly direct echoes in imagery from Mallarm to Crane such as the way the cold feminine beau ty of North Labrador derives from Hriodade , or the similarity in feeling of the misplaced speakers in the last lines of Key West (There is no breath of friends and no mo re shore/Where gold has not been sold and conscience tinned) ( Complete 126) alongside the turn at line 11 in Las de lamer repos : Je veux dlaisser lArt vorace dun pays/Cruel (I would forsake the hungry Art of a cruel land) ( Collected 16, though my translation). Even the main figure of Le Sonneur (The Bell-Ringer) serves as an insp iration for the beginning sexton slave speaker in The Broken Tower. A perhap s more important convergence in approach between Mallarm and Crane concerns their expectations toward the audience. Both poets were frequently beset by cri tical charges of obscurity. In the famous letter to Harriet Monroe on the logic of metaphor, Crane insists on an active imagination in the audience: In the minds of people who have sensitively read, seen and experienced a great deal, isnt there a terminology something like short-hand as compared to usual description and dialectics, whic h the artist out to be right in trusting as a reasonable connective agent toward fresh concepts, more inclusive evaluations? (O My Land 280-81). Crane then refers to Elio ts Rhapsody on a Windy Night to illustrate the responsibility poet and reader share in thinking me taphorically: It is of course understood that a street lamp cant beat w ith a sound like a drum; but it often happens that images, themselves totally dissociated, wh en joined in the circuit of a particular emotion located with specifi c relation to both of them, conduce to great vividness and accuracy of statement in defining that emotion ( O My Land 281).
157 Mallarm also addressed the issue of obscurity and the need for an attentive and sophisticated audience in an 1891 interview, T he Evolution of Literature. Mallarm asserts that younger symbolist poets draw nearer the poetic ideal than the older generation of Parnassians because the latter present things directly, whereas I th ink that they should be presented allusively. Poetry lies in the contemplation of things, in the image emanating from the reveries which things arouse in us. The Parnassians take something in its entirety and simp ly exhibit it; in so doing, they fall short of mystery; they fail to give our minds that exquisite joy which consists of believing that we are creating something. To name an object is largely to destroy poetic enjoyment, which comes from gradual divination. The ideal is to suggest the object. It is the pe rfect use of this mystery which constitutes symbol. . [obscurity is dangerous] regardless of whether it results from the readers in adequacy or from the poets. But if you avoid the work it involves, you are cheating. If a person of mediocre intelligence and insufficient literary experience happens to open an obscure book and insists on enjoying it, something is wrong; there has simply been a misunderstanding. There must always be enigma in poetry. The purpose of literature--the only purpose--is to evoke things. ( Selected 21-22) In this interview Mallarm epitomizes many of the key tenets of symbolist poetry, but throughout he emphasizes the importance of the poet and reader as co-creators. While
158 Crane also stresses the poets duty to aim for lucidity in spite of extreme metaphorical compression, he finally places the greater in terpretive burden on the reader. Via a curious twist, Crane positi ons himself as both poet and reader when discussing the dynamics of inferential mention in th e essay General Aims and Theories: In manipulating the more imponderable phenomena of psychic motives, pure emotional crystallizations, etc., I ha ve had to rely even more on these dynamics of inferential mention, and I am doubtless still very unconscious of having committed myself to what seems nothing but obscurities to some minds. A poem like Possessio ns really cannot be technically explained. It must rely (even to a la rge extent with myself) on its organic impact on the imagination to successfully imply its meaning. ( CPSLP 222) What an astonishing admission! The nearest equivalent in English lies in an unpublished letter from T. S. Eliot to I. A. Richards: if the reader knows too much about th e crude material in the authors mind, his own reaction may tend to become at best merely a kind of feeble image of the authors feelings, whereas a good poem should have a potentiality of evoking feelings and asso ciations in the reader of which the author is wholly ignorant. I am rather inclined to believe, for myself, that my best poems are possibly those wh ich evoke the greatest number and variety of interpretations surprising to myself. ( Inventions xxvi) Whether the absolute effects Crane strive s for in General Aims and Theories ( CPSLP 220) or the objective correlative Eliot idealizes in his essay on Hamlet ( Selected 48),
159 both modernists acknowledge the constitutive contribution of the reader to neo-symbolist poetrys goal of evocation. Cranes most recent biographer, Clive Fisher, nicely characterizes the interplay between poet and reader alongs ide a parallel emphasis on verse as its own entity: His lyrics were edifices rather than incisions--but because Crane understood elusiveness as a literary vi rtue and as a condition of existence they were necessarily co nstructs of apparently shifting stability and permanence. Built upon observations which he hoped were true to nature, they were held together with meta phors that could suggest without ever insisting. They depended for their life not only on the passion of the poet as he wrote them but on the responsiv eness of their readers, who might sometimes connect the metaphors into a strong and coherent structure while at other times taking meaning on trust. (332) Fisher rightly underscores the conceptual autonomy toward which Cranes poems aspire, and in that respect Crane fully belongs to the symbolist tradition, w hose central technique involves what Bernard Weinbe rg calls a truncated metaphor or what Ren Wellek describes as the poetry of th e predicate: in most older poe try the thing was the theme and the image illustrated it, while in Sym bolism the image assumes materiality and the thing is merely its accompaniment. Grammatically, Symbolist poetry could be called the poetry of the predicate. It speaks of some thing or somebody, but the subject, the person or the thing, remains hidden (What Is Sym bolism? 27). One of the best descriptions
160 of the theoretical underpinnings holding up such a technique occurs in Crisis in Poetry where Mallarm announces a symbolist aes thetic aligned on such principles: The poet must establish a careful re lationship between two images, from which a third element, clear and fusibl e, will be distil led and caught by our imagination. We renounce that erro neous esthetic (even though it has been responsible for certain masterpieces) which would have the poet fill the delicate pages of his book with th e actual and palpable wood of trees, rather than with the forests shudderi ng or the silent scattering of thunder through the foliage. ( Selected 40) In addition to adapting this te chnique that Mallarm here labels transposition into many of his own poems, Crane flamboyantly transp lants the theoretical forests shuddering from this prose passage of Mallarm into the physical climax (signale d by italic typeface in the original text) of the poem Harbor Dawn: your hands within my hands are deeds; my tongue upon your throat--singing arms close; eyes wide, undoubtful dark drink the dawn-a forest shudders in your hair! ( Complete 54) Crane rarely borrows images so directly from Mallarm, certainly not to the same extent as from Baudelaire, Rimbaud, or Eliot, yet in so many ways Crane s aesthetic approach seems to echo Mallarm. When Mallarm exclai ms, If the poem is to be pure, the poets voice must be stilled and the initiative taken by the words themselves, which will be set in motion as they meet unequally in collision ( Selected 40), one sees a familial
161 resemblance in Cranes method of composition: One can go only so far with logic, then willfully dream and play--and pray for the fusion.--When ones work suddenly stands up, separate and moving of itself with its own s udden life, as it must; quite separate from ones own personality ( O My Land 289). So why should what I called in the introduction third-wave symbolists, such as Eliot, Crane, and Wallace Stevens, be consid ered neo-symbolists in stead? Apart from refining and synthesizing the aesthetics a nd techniques of the f irst-wave French Symbolists, the neo-symbolists place an in creased emphasis on the readers responsivity to the text. Anna Balakian pr ovides one of the best cultural and artistic explanations for this evolution: The poet is not as isolated in 1900s as in the years of the fin de sicle . In most of T. S. Eliots comments about the effect of the poem, there is a definite awareness of the presence of the reader--and not simply a handful of readers, such as the habitus of Mallarms Tuesdays. If there is hermeticism, for instance, ther e also seems to be the foregone conclusion that this elliptic writing mu st bring the reader--of course, the elite reader--into some kind of comm unication with the poet. Eliot says, in The Uses of Poetry : meaning [is] necessary to soothe the reader while the poem does its work. Earlier symbolists would have been content with whatever the poem had done to themselv es; in the process of creation here there is a definite intent that the spirit of the poem permeate the other as well as the self, in a relationship in which the reader becomes a kind of
162 alter ego, or performs the func tion of mirror for Narcissus. (Symbolist Movement 159-60) Neo-symbolist Anglo-American poets re alized that modernism brought about a revolution in artistic sensibility which aff ected not just the production of poetry but a wider, reinvigorated range of reception as we ll. To an extent, many modernist poets also wrote as literary critics in order to acclim ate and educate their audiences, in short, to teach their readers how to read this new t ype of verse. John Irwin indicates how in Cranes poems an attention to form works in concert with an attention to the readers response: Cranes metaphors never offend by being obvious. Their very difficulty is an implicit compliment to the reader whose feeling for verbal nuances is trusted to supply the link between tenor and vehicle. Char acteristically, in Cranes verse the metaphoric relationship A is B takes by ellipsis the form of a complex word or phrase A B, and this complex word or phrase becomes in turn part of the metaphoric relationship C is AB, and so on, with mounting complexity. The structure of a typical Crane metaphor is a microcosm of the structure of a typi cal Crane poem, and both are in turn embodiments of his concept of the poetic act. (Naming Names 286) Crane might never have succeeded as a ne o-symbolist poet without first sharing and then adapting the aesthetic s and techniques of Mallarm more specifically, through their shared interest in poetrys incantatory creation of a new word, their insistence on a sophisticated audience who would apprecia te the shorthand methods of symbolism,
163 and their emphasis on verse as its own mate rial and conceptual entity beyond the immediate concerns of the versifier.
164 Works Cited Balakian, Anna. Symbolism. The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics Ed. Alex Preminger and T.V.F. Broga n. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1993. 1256-59. ---. The Symbolist Movement: A Critical Appraisal New York: Random House, 1967. ---, ed. The Symbolist Movement in the Literature of European Languages Budapest: Akadmiai Kiad, 1982. Barbarese, J.T. Hart Cranes Difficult Passage. The Columbia History of American Poetry. Ed. Jay Parini. New Yo rk: Columbia UP, 1993. 419-51. Baudelaire, Charles. Baudelaire: His Prose and Poetry Ed. T. R. Smith. Modern Library Series. New York: Boni and Liveright, 1919. Benamou, Michel. Wallace Stevens and the Symbolist Imagination Princeton: Princeton UP, 1972. Bennett, Maria F. Unfractioned Idiom: Hart Crane and Modernism New York: Peter Lang, 1987. Berthoff, Warner. Hart Crane: A Re-Introduction Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1989. Blackmur, R.P. The Double Agent: Essays in Craft and Elucidation 1935. Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1962. Bleich, David. Symbolmaking and Su icide: Hart Crane (1899-1932). University of Hartford Studies in Literature 10 (1978): 70-102.
165 Block, Haskell M. The Alleged Parallel of Metaphysical and Symbolist Poetry. Comparative Literature Studies 4 (1967): 145-59. ---. Aspects of Symbolist Poetry in the United States. The Symbolist Movement in the Literature of European Languages. Ed. Anna Balakian. Budapest: Akadmiai Kiad, 1982. 653-58. ---. The Impact of French Symbolism on Modern American Poetry. The Shaken Realist: Essays in Modern Literatu re in Honor of Frederick J. Hoffman. Ed. Melvin Friedman and John Vickery. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1970. 165-217. Bloom, Harold, ed. Introduction. Hart Crane: Modern Critical Views New York: Chelsea House, 1986. ---. Poetics of Influence Ed. John Hollander. New Haven, CT: Schwab, 1988. Bromwich, David. T. S. Eliot and Hart Crane. High and Low Moderns: Literature and Culture, 1889-1939 Ed. Maria DiBattista and Lucy McDiarmid. New York: Oxford UP, 1996. 49-64. Blum, W. C. Some Remarks on Rimbaud as Magician. The Dial 68 (June 1920): 71932. Brunner, Edward. Splendid Failure: Hart Crane and the Making of The Bridge. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1985. Butterfield, R. W. The Broken Arc: A Study of Hart Crane Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1969.
166 Caws, Mary Ann, ed. Selected Poetry and Prose. By Stphane Mallarm. New York: New Directions: 1982. Clark, David R., ed. Introduction. Critical Essays on Hart Crane Boston: G.K. Hall 1982. ---. Lyric Resonance. Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 1972. Chiari, Joseph. Symbolisme from Poe to Mallarm: The Growth of a Myth 2 nd ed. New York: Gordian, 1970. Coffman, Stanley K., Jr. Symbolism in The Bridge. PMLA 66 (1951): 65-77. Rpt. in Clark, Critical 133-44. Combs, Robert. Vision of the Voyage: Hart Crane and the Psychology of Romanticism Memphis: Memphis State UP, 1978. Cowley, Malcolm. Exiles Return: A Litera ry Odyssey of the 1920s New York: Viking, 1951. ---. Laforgue in America: A Testimony. Sewanee Review 71.1 (Winter 1963): 62-74. ---. A Second Flowering: Works and Days of the Lost Generation. New York: Viking, 1973. Crane, Hart. Complete Poems of Hart Crane Ed. Marc Simon. New York: Liveright, 1993. ---. The Complete Poems and Selected Letters and Prose of Hart Crane Ed. Brom Weber. Garden City, NY: Anchor-Doubleday, 1966. ---. O My Land, My Friends: The Selected Letters of Hart Crane Ed. Langdon Hammer and Brom Weber. New York: Four Walls, 1997.
167 Creeley, Robert. Hart Crane and the Private Judgment. A Quick Graph: Collected Notes and Essays Ed. Donald Allen. San Francisco: Four Seasons, 1970. Dean, Tim. Hart Cranes Poetics of Privacy. American Literary History 8.1 (Spring 1996): 83-109. Delany, Samuel R. Atlantis Rose...Some Notes on Hart Crane. Longer Views: Extended Essays. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan UP-UP of New England, 1996. 174-250. De Man, Paul. Allegories of Reading New Haven: Yale UP, 1979. Dembo, L.S. Hart Cranes Sanskrit Charge: A Study of The Bridge. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1960. Derrida, Jacques. Mallarm. Acts of Literature. Ed. Derek Attridge. New York: Routledge, 1992. 110-26. Edelman, Lee. Transmemberment of Song: Hart Cr anes Anatomies of Rhetoric and Desire. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1987. Eliot, T. S. Complete Poems and Plays, 1909-1950 New York: Harcourt, 1952. ---. Inventions of the Ma rch Hare: Poems 1909-1917 Ed. Christopher Ricks. New York: Harvest-Harcourt, 1996. ---. To Criticize the Critic and Other Writings New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1965. ---. "Reflections on Contemporary Poetry." Egoist 6.3 (July 1919): 39-40. ---. Rev. of Baudelaire and the Symbolists by Peter Quennell. Criterion 9 (January 1930): 357-59. ---. Selected Prose Ed. Frank Kermode. Centenary ed. New York: Harcourt, 1975.
168 Feidelson, Charles. Symbolism in American Literature Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1953. Fike, Francis. Symbolic Strategy in Repose of Rivers. Hart Crane Newsletter 1.1 (Winter 1977): 18-27. Fisher, Clive. Hart Crane: A Life New Haven: Yale UP, 2002. Foster, Margaret. Arthur Rimbaud and Ha rt Crane: An Essay in Influence and Parallels. Diss. Ohio State U, 1940. Fowlie, Wallace. The Clowns Grail London: Dobson, 1948. ---. Poem and Symbol: A Brief History of French Symbolism University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 1990. ---, trans. Rimbaud: Complete Works, Selected Letters Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1966. Galpin, Alfred. A Boat in the To wer: Rimbaud in Cleveland, 1922. Renascence 25.1 (Autumn 1972): 3-13. Garden, Diane Beth. Arthur Rimbaud and Ha rt Crane: A Comparison of Their Poetic Techniques. Diss. New York U, 1985. ---. Hart Crane Goes to School to Arthur Rimbaud: The Impact of Rimbauds Soir historique on Cranes At Melvilles Tomb. American Poetry 8 (Fall 1980): 7080. Gelpi, Albert. A Coherent Splendor: The Americ an Poetic Renaissance, 1910-1950. New York: Cambridge UP, 1987. Gregory, Horace and Marya Zaturenska. A History of American Poetry 1900-1940 New York: Gordian, 1946.
169 Hammer, Langdon. Hart Crane and Allen Tate: Janus-Faced Modernism Princeton: Princeton UP, 1993. Hanley, Alfred. Hart Cranes Holy Visi on: White Buildings. Pittsburgh: Duquesne UP, 1981. Hazo, Samuel. Smithereened Apart: A Critique of Hart Crane Athens: Ohio UP, 1963. Herman, Barbara. The La nguage of Hart Crane. Sewanee Review 58 (1950): 52-67. Hoffman, Frederick J. Symbolisme and Modern Poetry in the United States. Comparative Literature Studies 4 (1967): 193-99. Holton, Milne. A Baudelairesque Thing: Th e Directions of Hart Cranes Black Tambourine. Criticism 9.3 (Summer 1967): 215-28 Horton, Philip. Hart Crane: The Life of an American Poet New York: Norton, 1936. Irwin, John T. Back Home Again in Indiana: Hart Cranes The Bridge. Romantic Revolutions Ed. Kenneth R. Johnston et al Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1990. 26996. ---. Naming Names: Hart Cranes Logic of Metaphor. Southern Review 11.2 (April 1975): 284-99. Kugel, James L. The Technique of Strangeness in Symbolist Poetry New Haven: Yale UP, 1971. LeClair, Margaret Foster. Hart Crane: Poet of the Machine Age. Lectures on Some Modern Poets Carnegie Series in English. No. 2. Pittsburgh: Carnegie, 1955. 3-23.
170 Leibowitz, Herbert A. Hart Crane: An Introduction to the Poetry New York: Columbia UP, 1968. Lewis, R.W.B. The Poetry of Hart Crane: A Critical Study. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1967. Lewis, Thomas S. W., ed. Letters of Hart Crane and His Family New York: Columbia UP, 1974. Lohf, Kenneth A. The Library of Hart Crane. Proof 3 (1973): 283-334. ---. The Literary Manuscripts of Hart Crane. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1967. ---. The Prose Manuscripts of Hart Crane: An Editorial Portfolio. Proof 2 (1972): 1-60. Longenbach, James. Hart Crane and T.S. Eliot: Poets in the Sacred Grove. Denver Quarterly 23.1 (Summer 1988): 82-103. Mallarm, Stphane. Collected Poems. Trans. Henry Weinfield. Berkeley: U of California P, 1994. ---. Stphane Mallarm 1842-1898: A Comme morative Presentation Including Translations from His Prose and Verse with Commentaries Ed.Grange Woolley. Madison, NJ: Drew UP, 1942. ---. Mallarm: Selected Prose, Poems, Essays and Letters. Trans. Bradford Cook. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1956. Mariani, Paul. The Broken Tower: A Life of Hart Crane. New York: Norton, 1999. Martin, Robert K. The Homosexual Tradition in American Poetry Austin: U of Texas P, 1979.
171 McMahon, William E. Hart Cranes Mask: T. S. Eliot. Modern Age 39.4 (Fall 1997): 393-96. Munson, Gorham. Hart Crane: Young Titan in the Sacred Wood. Destinations: A Canvas of American Literature Since 1900 New York: J. H. Sears, 1928. 160-77. Nicholls, Peter. Modernisms: A Literary Guide. Berkeley: U of California P, 1995. Norton-Smith, John. A Readers Guide to White Buildings. Ed.Victor Skretkowicz. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 1993. OConnor, William Van. Sense and Sensibility in Modern Poetry New York: Gordian, 1973. Ormsby, Eric. The Last Elizab ethan: Hart Crane at 100. New Criterion 19.6 (Feb. 2001): 12-18. Parkinson, Thomas. Hart Crane and Yvor Winters: Their Literary Correspondence Berkeley: U of California P, 1978. Paul, Sherman. Harts Bridge Chicago: U of Illinois P, 1972. ---. Hewing to Experience: Essays and Reviews on Recent American Poetry and Poetics, Nature, and Culture Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 1989. Pearce, Roy Harvey. The Continuity of American Poetry Princeton: Princeton UP, 1961. Pemberton, Vivian H. Hart Crane and Yvor Winter s, Rebuttal and Review: A New Crane Letter. American Literature 50.2 (May 1978): 276-81. Peyre, Henri. What Is Symbolism? 1974. Trans. Emmett Parker. University: U of Alabama P, 1980.
172 Piculin, Karl T. The Critics and Hart Cranes The Bridge : An Interview with John Unterecker. Hart Crane Newsletter 2.1 (Summer 1978): 22-33. Rpt. in Clark, Critical 184-91. Pound, Ezra. The Letters of Ezra Pound, 1907-1941. Ed. D.D. Paige. New York: Harcourt, 1950. ---. Pavannes and Divisions. New York: Knopf, 1918. ---. Selected Prose, 1909-1965 Ed. William Cookson. New York: New Directions, 1973. Pratt, William. The French Origins of M odern American Poetry: A Study in Literary Internationalism. The Influence of French Symbolism on Modern American Poetry, 1910-20 By Ren Taupin. Trans. William Pratt and Anne Rich Pratt. Ed. William Pratt. New York: AMS, 1985. 143-70. ---. Singing the Chaos: Madness and Wisdom in Modern Poetry Columbia: U of Missouri P, 1996. Rexroth, Kenneth. The Influence of French Poetry on American. World Outside the Window: The Selected Essays of Kenneth Rexroth Ed. Bradford Morrow. New York: New Directions, 1987. Rickword, Edgell. Rimbaud: The Boy and the Poet 1924. New York: Haskell House, 1971. Riddel, Joseph. Hart Cranes Poetics of Failure. English Literary History 33.4 (December 1966): 473-96. Rpt. in Bloom, Hart Crane 91-110. Rimbaud, Arthur. Oeuvres compltes Ed. Rolland de Renville and Jules Mouquet. Paris: Gallimard, 1946.
173 Rosenthal, M.L. and Sally Gall. The Modern Poetic Sequence: The Genius of Modern Poetry New York: Oxford UP, 1983. Rootham, Helen, trans. Six Illuminations of Rimbaud. The Little Review 5.3 (July 1918): 20-24. Schwartz, Joseph. The Recognition of Hart Crane, 1916-1934. The Visionary Company 1.2 and 2.1 (Spring 1982): 93-155. Scott, Clive. Decadence. The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Ed. Alex Preminger and T.V.F. Broga n. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1993. 275-76. Simon, Marc. Eugene ONeills Introduction to Hart Cranes White Buildings : Why he would have done it in a minute but.... The Eugene ONeill Review 15.1 (Spring 1991): 41-57. Smith, Ernest. The Imaged Word: The Infrastructure of Hart Cranes White Buildings. New York: Peter Land, 1990. Strier, Richard. The Poetics of Surrender: An Exposition and Critique of New Critical Poetics. Critical Inquiry 2.1 (Autumn 1975): 171-89. Sundquist, Eric J. Bringing Home the Word: Magi c, Lies, and Silence in Hart Crane. English Literary History 44.2 (Summer 1977): 376-99. Symons, Arthur. The Symbolist Movement in Literature 1899. 2 nd ed. New York: Dutton, 1908. Tate, Allen. The Forlorn Demon Chicago: Regnery, 1953. ---.Hart Crane. Essays of Four Decades. Chicago: Swallow, 1968. 310-23.
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175 Uroff, M.D. Hart Crane: The Patterns of His Poetry. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1974. Verlaine, Paul. Selected Poems Trans. C. F. MacIntyre. Berkeley: U of California P, 1948. Walch, Grard. Anthologie des Potes Franais Contemporains: Le Parnasse et les coles Postrieures au Parnasse (1866-1914) 1917. Tome deuxime. Paris: Delagrave, 1959. Waggoner, Hyatt H. American Visionary Poetry Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1982. Watson, J. Sibley, trans. Illumin ations. By Arthur Rimbaud. The Dial 69 (August 1920): 181-85. ---, trans. A Season in Hell. By Arthur Rimbaud. The Dial 69 (July 1920): 1-26. Webb, Igor. Yvor Winters as Teacher. Partisan Review 65.2 (Spring 1998): 273-82. Weber, Brom. Hart Crane: A Biographical and Critical Study New York: Bodley, 1948. ---, ed. The Letters of Hart Crane 1916-1932 By Hart Crane. Berk eley: U of California P, 1952. Wellek, Ren. Discriminations: Further Concepts of Criticism New Haven: Yale UP, 1970. 90-121. ---.What Is Symbolism? The Symbolist Movement in the Literature of European Languages Ed. Anna Balakian. Budapest: Akadmai Kiad, 1982. 17-28. Williamson, Alan. Hart Crane. Voices and Visions: The Poet in America Ed. Helen Vendler. New York: Random House, 1987. 313-51. Wilson, Edmund. Axels Castle New York: Scribners, 1936.
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177 Bibliography Alvarez, Alfred. The Lyric of Hart Crane. Stewards of Excellence: Studies in Modern English and American Poets New York: Scribners, 1958. 107-23. Benjamin, Walter. Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism Trans. Harry Zohn. London: NLB, 1973. Brown, Susan Jenkins. Robber Rocks: Letters and Memories of Hart Crane, 1923-1932 Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 1969. Clements, Patricia. Baudelaire and the English Tradition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1985. Cornell, Kenneth. The Symbolist Movement New Haven, Yale UP, 1951. ---. The Post-Symbolist Period New Haven: Yale UP, 1958. Davison, Richard Allan. Hart Crane, Louis Unte rmeyer and T.S. Eliot: A New Crane Letter. American Literature 44.1 (March 1972): 143-45. Dean, Tim. Hart Cranes Death Dr ive. Diss. Johns Hopkins U, 1994. De Man, Paul. Allegory and Irony in Baudelaire. Romanticism and Contemporary Criticism: The Gauss Seminar and Other Papers. Ed. E.S. Burt, Kevin Newmark, Andrzej Warminski. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1993. 101-19. ---. The Double Aspect of Symbolism. Romanticism and Contemporary Criticism: The Gauss Seminar and Other Papers Ed. E.S. Burt, Kevin Newmark, Andrzej Warminski. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1993. 147-63.
178 Davison, Richard Allan, Hart Crane, Louis Untermeyer and T. S. Eliot: A New Crane Letter. American Literaure 44.1 (March 1972): 143-45. Grossman, Allen. Hart Crane and Poetry: A Cons ideration of Cranes Intense Poetics with Reference to The Return. Critical Essays on Hart Crane Ed. David R. Clark. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1982. 221-54. Guiguet, Jean. Lunivers potique de Hart Crane Paris: Lettres Modernes, 1965. Houston, John Porter. French Symbolism and the Modernis t Movement: A Study of Poetic Structures Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1980. McGee, Patrick. Criticism as Symbolic Exchange: Baudrillard, Hart Crane. Telling the Other: The Question of Value in Modern and Postcolonial Writing Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1992. OConnell, Daniel. The Opposition Critics: The Antisymbolis t Reaction in the Modern Period. The Hague: Mouton, 1974. Quinn, Vincent. Hart Crane New York: Twayne, 1963. Ramsey, Warren. Jules Laforgue and the Ironic Inheritance New York: Oxford UP, 1953. ---. Uses of the Visible: Ameri can Imagisme, French Symbolism. Comparative Literature Studies 4 (1967): 177-91. Roditi, Edouard. Cruising With Hart Crane. The Autobiographical Eye Daniel Halpern, ed. Hopewell, NJ: Ecco, 1982. 200-208. Schwartz, Joseph. Hart Crane: An Annotated Bibliography New York: David Lewis, 1970. Spears, Monroe. Hart Crane Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1965.
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About the Author Christopher A. Tidwell was born in Clar ksville, Tennessee, in 1965. He received a B.A. in English from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, in 1987, an M.A. in English from the University of Fl orida in Gainesville, Florida, in 1989, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida, in 2006. He has taught a wide range of undergraduate c ourses in English and composition at the University of Florida, the University of Cent ral Florida, the Univers ity of South Florida, the University of Tampa, Edison Community College, Hillsborough Community College, and Valencia Community College. He has published reviews in the journals Criticism and The Georgia Review served for four years in the So ciety of Wilkins Scholars at the University of the South, and received two University Graduate Fellowships (1995-96, 1996-97) from the University of South Florid a as well as the Department of English Outstanding Doctoral Candidate Award in 1999.
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Tidwell, Christopher A.
"Mingling Incantations": Hart Crane's Neo-Symbolist Poetics
h [electronic resource] /
by Christopher A. Tidwell.
[Tampa, Fla] :
b University of South Florida,
ABSTRACT: The largest impediment to appreciating Hart Crane as a symbolist modern American poet derives from the fragmentary critical attention paid to his borrowings from and familiarity with French Symbolists like Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, and Stphane Mallarm. Almost equally important, the early career of T. S. Eliot exerted a profound impact on Crane's poetic development and indeed served as the primary introduction to many nineteenth-century French poets for Crane and many other American poets of his generation. This dissertation initially examines contemporary critical definitions of the symbolist method and explores the extent to which Hart Crane's familiarity with the French language helped shape his exposure to writers such as Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Mallarm. A reading of Crane's "Black Tambourine," a self-professed "Baudelairesque thing," indicates the dissertation's general approach by showing how Crane's poems evolve as "mingling incantations," as artistic blendings interfused by the aesthetics of the major French Symbolist poets. After presenting a historical overview and critique of the critical reception given to Crane as a symbolist, the rest of the dissertation interrogates the relationship of Crane to Eliot and their views on literary influence; examines the connections between Crane, Baudelaire, and Rimbaud; and finally explores the theoretical affinities between Mallarm and Crane's formulation of a neo-symbolist poetics.
Dissertation (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2006.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic dissertation) in PDF format.
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Adviser: Phillip Sipiora, Ph.D.
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.