Expansive Poetics – 34 (Hart Crane 2 – Cape Hatteras)

[Hart Crane (1899-1932)]

Then he (Hart Crane) goes directly into an address to Walt Whitman – or, in another section of the poem he has an address to Walt Whitman, in the “Cape Hatteras” section. He quotes Whitman to begin with – ” – “Recorders ages hence” – ah, syllables of faith!” – That was one thing he noticed about Whitman. It’s rueful – “Walt, tell me Walt Whitman, if infinity/Be still the same as when you walked the beach/ Near Paumanok” – Long Island – “…your lone patrol – and heard the wraith/Through surf, its bird note there a long time falling…/For you, the panoramas and this breed of towers,/Of you – the theme that’s statured in the cliff./O Saunterer of free ways still ahead!/Not this our empire yet, but labyrinth/Wherein your eyes like the Great Navigator’s without ship/Gleam from the great stones of each prison crypt/Of canyoned traffic…Confronting the Exchange,/Surviving n a world of stocks – they also range/Across the hills where second timber strays/Back over Connecticut farms, abandoned pastures –/Sea eyes and tidal, undenying, bright with myth!” – 
Then there’s a really interesting mouthy passage of Crane here, describing the Machine Age, which  I didn’t include (in the Expansive Poetics anthology), but it’s a brief thing, so I’ll read it – [Allen begins reading] – “The nasal whinw of power whips a new universe…/Where spouting pillars spoor the evening sky,/Under the looming stacks of the gigantic power house/Stars prick the eyes with sharp ammoniac proverbs,/New verities, new inklings in the velvet hummed/Of dynamos, where hearing’s lease is strummed…/Power’s script, – wound, bobbin-bound, refined -/Is stropped to the slap of belts on booming spools, spurred/Into the bulging bouillon, harnessed jelly of the stars./ Towards what? The forked crash of split thunder parts/Our hearing momentwise; but fast in whirling armatures,/As bright as frogs’ eyes, giggling in the girth/Of steely gizzards – axle-bound, confined/In coiled precision, bunched in mutual glee/The bearings glint, – O murmurless and shined/In oilrinsed circles of blind ecstasy!” – Kind of a weird vision – “As bright as frogs’ eyes, giggling in the girth/Of steely gizzards” – That’s kind of a weird vision of the Machine Age. 
He takes up then the Wright Brothers’ at Kitty Hawk flight, the invention of the airplane – the “Skygak”, as he speaks of it – “..pilot, hear!/Thine eyes bicarbinated white by speed, I Skygak..” – and then he gets back to Whitman – “O Walt” – we have it in replica here – “Ascensions of thee hover in me now” (in) “The stars have grooved..” (“The stars have grooved our eyes with old persuasions..”), that section – [Allen contnues reading] – “O Walt – Ascensions of thee hover in me now/As thou at junctions elegiac, there, of speed/ With vast eternity, dost wield the rebound seed!/The competent loam, the probable grass – travail/Of tides awash the pedestal of Everest.” – It’s just pure funny language there – “travail/Of tides awash the pedestal of Everest.” (I suppose the tides of modernity, the tides of (the) Machine Age) – “..fail/Not less than thou in pure impulse inbred/To answer deepest soundings! O, upward from the dead/Thou bringest tally, and a pact…” – (that’s the same as (Ezra) Pound’s “I make a pact with you, Walt Whitman” –  “…new bound/Of living brotherhood” – [Allen reads on] – “..Thou, there beyond – /Glacial sierras and the flight of ravens,/Hermetically past condor zones, through zenith havens/Past where the albatross has offered up/His last wing-pulse, and downcast as a cup/That’s drained, is shivered back to earth – thy wand/Has beat a song, O Walt – there and beyond!…”…”…Thou, pallid there as chalk, Hast kept of wounds, O Mourner, all the sum/That then from Appomattox stretched to Somme..” –  From (a) battle of the Civil War to World War I – the Battle of the Somme – [Allen continues] – “Cowslip and shad-blow, flaked like tethered foam/Around bared teeth of stallions, bloomed that spring/When first I read thy lines, rife as the loam/Of praries, yet like breakers cliffward leaping!/ O early following thee, I searched the hill/Blue-writ and odor-firm with violets, ’til/With June the mountain laurel broke through the green/And filled the forest with what clustrous sheen!/Potomac lilies..”…”Heard thunder’s eloquence through green arcades/Set trumpets breathing in each clump and grass tuft – til/ Gold autumn, captured, crowned the trembling hill! / Panis Angelicus!..” –  (Angelic bread)  –  “Panis Angelicus! Eyes tranquil with the blaze/ Of love’s own diametric gaze, of love’s amaze!/Not greatest, thou – not first nor last, – but near..” – So he’s saying of Whitman, of all the poets in antiquity, he’s not the greatest, nor the first, nor the last, but near, the only one that was near us in America – “And onward yielding past my utmost year/Familiar, thou, as mendicants in public places” – (Familiar as beggars in the town square) – “Evasive – too – as dayspring’s spreading arc to trace is -” – (A funny line. A funny rhyme.)  – “Our Meistersinger, thou set breath in steel/And it was thou who on the boldest heel/Stood up and flung the span on even wing/Of that great Bridge, our Myth, whereof I sing!/  Years of the Modern! Propulsions toward what capes?/But thou, Panis Angelicus, hast thou not seen/And passed that Barrier that none escapes -/ But knows it leastwise as death-strife? – O, something green/Beyond all sesames of science was thy choice/Wherewith to bind us throbbing with one voice,/New integers of Roman, Viking, Celt -/Thou, Vedic Caesar, to the greensward knelt!” – (So, in this passage, he’s praising Whiman for giving place to nature, for pointing back to nature, although (at the same time) accepting the “modern propulsions” toward new invention – modernity, steel, the locomotive and everything. He’s saying that, ultimately, Caesar (or Kaiser or King, Master of the Vedas, master of alphabetic epic), kneels down “to the greensward”) – “And now, as launched in abysmal cupolas of space,” – (with the Space Age, with people going to Mars) – “And now, as launched in abysmal cupolas of space,/Toward endless terminals, Easters of speeding light – ..” – (talking about approaching the speed of light, and everything turns into the time changes, so it’s like “Easters” – crucifixtions of speeding light

Student: Resurrections.

Student: Resurrections of speeding light, okay. Resurrections of speeding light. [to the class] – (A) good Catholic boy here! – [he continues] – “Vast engines outward veering with seraphic grace/On clarion cylinders pass out of sight/To course that span of consciousness thou’st named/The Open Road..” – (which is, actually, still the theme of the Kennedy-ian Cape Canaveral flights, “Open Road”, basically) – “. .- thy vision is reclaimed!/What heritage thou’st signalled to our hands!/ And see! the rainbow’s arch – how shimmeringly stands/Above the Cape’s ghoul-mound, O joyous seer!/Recorders ages hence, yes, they shall hear/In their own veins uncancelled thy sure tread/And read thee by the aureole ’round thy head/Of pasture-shine, Panis Angelicus!” – (that is, the light (or) dew-light in pastures, the rainbow light in pastures) –  “yes, Walt,/Afoot again, and onward without halt, -/ Not soon, nor suddenly, – no, never to let go/ My hand/ in yours,/ Walt Whiman -/so -” – (At the end, it gets to be very beautiful. After all the rhetoric, it gets to be a very beautiful, heart-felt offering of hand, “picking up the relay”, as Gregory Corso would say).  

[Audio for the above begins here at approximately seventy-seven-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately eighty-seven-and-three-quarter minutes in] 

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