To Brooklyn Bridge
By Hart Crane
How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest
The seagull's wings shall dip and pivot him,
Shedding white rings of tumult, building high
Over the chained bay waters Liberty--
Then, with inviolate curve, forsake our eyes
As apparitional as sails that cross
Some page of figures to be filed away;
--Till elevators drop us from our day...
I think of cinemas, panoramic sleights
With multitudes bent toward some flashing scene
Never disclosed, but hastened to again,
Foretold to other eyes on the same screen;
And Thee, across the harbor, silver-paced
As though the sun took step of thee, yet left
Some motion ever unspent in thy stride,--
Implicitly thy freedom staying thee!
Out of some subway scuttle, cell or loft
A bedlamite speeds to thy parapets,
Tilting there momently, shrill shirt ballooning,
A jest falls from the speechless caravan.
Down Wall, from girder into street noon leaks,
A rip-tooth of the sky's acetylene;
All afternoon the cloud-flown derricks turn...
Thy cables breathe the North Atlantic still.
And obscure as that heaven of the Jews,
Thy guerdon... Accolade thou dost bestow
Of anonymity time cannot raise:
Vibrant reprieve and pardon thou dost show.
O harp and altar, of the fury fused,
(How could mere toil align thy choiring strings!)
Terrific threshold of the prophet's pledge,
Prayer of pariah, and the lover's cry,--
Again the traffic lights that skim thy swift
Unfractioned idiom, immaculate sigh of stars,
Beading thy path--condense eternity:
And we have seen night lifted in thine arms.
Under thy shadow by the piers I waited;
Only in darkness is thy shadow clear.
The City's fiery parcels all undone,
Already snow submerges an iron year...
O Sleepless as the river under thee,
Vaulting the sea, the prairies' dreaming sod,
Unto us lowliest sometime sweep, descend
And of the curveship lend a myth to God.
This is a companion piece to yesterday's poem, "The Bridge, Palm Sunday, 1973," which I had meant to post on Palm Sunday because of the title but then got distracted by Poet's Choice and wanted to get in during Easter week to keep it timely. But I really should have posted "To Brooklyn Bridge" first -- one of my favorite poems, and part of the reason I ended up studying Modernism. Corn wrote, "I'm thinking about Crane's poem of the Bridge,/Grand enough to inspire disbelief and to suspend it..." Then he calls upon Hart Crane himself to help him try to define the connection between himself and the friend whom he calls brother (the subtext suggesting lover or at least hopeless crush, with the two of them sharing a common passionate identification with Crane, who was gay). They are people linked as Brooklyn and Manhattan are linked. It's really gutsy, I think, to invoke Crane, who was a staggering genius, and Corn did it beautifully.
We got up early Thursday to drive to Delaware, where we went first to the Museum of Natural History, which had an exhibit of dinosaur eggs -- some the same as we saw in Harrisburg at the Whitaker Center a couple of years ago, but expanded with new fossils and video presentations about what's been discovered in the meantime, including complete fetuses in shells. We planned to spend very little time there because our main destinations were the two Du Pont estates, Winterthur and Longwood Gardens, which straddle the Delaware-Pennsylvania border. Winterthur is the mansion built by Jacques Antoine Bidermann and Evelina Gabrielle Du Pont, where the house's fifth owner, Henry Francis Du Pont, collected American furnishings and arts and crafts that he long intended to turn into a museum.
After picnicking on the grounds, we walked through the extensive gardens and took the house tour, which covers less than a fourth of the actual rooms. The original family fortune was made selling improved gunpowder during the Civil War, and the collection amassed with the inheritance is astonishing: a Gilbert Stuart painting of George Washington, a set of dishes owned by the Washingtons, a set of tankards made by Paul Revere, the Monroe china from the White House (one of 50+ sets of china), a closet filled entirely with candlesticks, a room of Empire furniture, lots of early American cut glass and musical instruments. There was an Easter tour in progress and the rooms were filled with flowers, though flowers and historic furniture don't usually go together; these had been stored in CO2 to kill any insects. The grounds have an Enchanted Woods section with a stone circle, labyrinth, faerie cottage and lots of other neat things for kids as well as spectacular flowering trees, not so much a formal garden as I was expecting.
From Winterthur we went to Longwood Gardens across the Pennsylvania border, where Pierre Du Pont's house is now a museum of horticulture and where there is a massive conservatory, water gardens, topiary garden, azaleas not quite in season and a tower with waterfall. We didn't have time to tour it all and different areas will be in bloom in a couple of weeks as spring turns to summer in the Brandywine Valley. Once again we had charmed weather, 70ish and bright sunshine; I had some allergy annoyances around the lilies in the greenhouses but overall we couldn't have had a nicer day. We got home late due to some traffic around Baltimore and watched Commander in Chief in its new time slot -- not an inspiring episode, and the ending even more a fantasy-fest than The West Wing, but I love Geena Davis anyway.
Du Pont amassed an amazing collection of pre-1860 Americana (he felt that everything produced afterward was too industrialized). This is the dining room, set here for the season with draperies and china in spring colors. Du Pont believed in using natural light, so there was no chandelier, just big windows and candles.
Du Pont also had one room furnished in the style and with the decor of each of the original thirteen colonies; this is the Georgia room. Many of these items were obtained from the estate of the woman in the painting, who will now be with her possessions forever.
The wall coverings in this room are painted screens from late 1700s China, while the furniture is Chippendale-style with Oriental ornamentation as was popular among wealthy Westerners of that era. The scenes depict Chinese village life and are non-repeating; the areas above doors and windows were painted to match, so as not to miss any of the scenes, and that paint has darkened more than the screens, so that it's easy to tell what was added. This was used as a game parlor -- note the card table in the back left -- and had shelves of gorgeous Asian porcelain vases.
This little drinking room was never really used by the family but was one of Du Pont's decorative showcases. Yet it has my favorite wallpaper. Du Pont also had a collection of paintings of sea battles from the War of 1812, some showing the Americans triumphing, some showing the Royal Navy triumphing. There's a very nice one of the Chesapeake meeting the Shannon in battle.
I took well over a hundred pictures of the Winterthur grounds, Longwood Gardens and dinosaur eggs, so more photos to come. Not sure what we're up to Friday besides having dinner with my parents; apaulled's office is closed because the stock market is closed, and I am going to try to track down nigita! Have a good Good Friday, those who celebrate!