The Spyglass, Views and Reviews, 1924-1930: Selected and Edited by John Tyree Fain

By Donald Davidson | Go to book overview

Hart Crane's White Buildings* Extra Review April 3, 1927

The best review of the poetry of Hart Crane would be to give word for word the excellent study by Allen Tare which stands as foreword to this strange, bewildering, and in many ways impressive volume. Such a review might be supplemented by the expository and laudatory remarks of Waldo Frank in a recent issue of the New Republic, and, even more pointedly, by the explanatory statements of Hart Crane himself, made by way of reply to a criticism of Harriet Monroe in the October 1926 number of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. That a reviewer finds himself compelled to refer to such documents is, however, an implied commentary on the work of Hart Crane, and signifies that a critical approach is difficult.

I begin by taking some lines from Crane "The Marriage of Faustus and Helen", which has been praised by these and other authorities as one of the important poems of this generation:

Capped arbiter of beauty in this street
That narrows darkly into motor dawn,
You, here beside me, delicate ambassador
Of intricate slain numbers that arise
In whispers, naked of steel; religious gunman!

The passage is unfairly torn from its context and is taken

____________________
*
In his letter to Tate of March 21, 1927, Davidson says,. ". . . here is a carbon of my review of Hart Crane. I wish it could be more favorable, for I respect your judgment and a great deal of his poetry. Nevertheless, I cannot get around an unpleasant effect that I constantly get from his poetry . . . . Part of the unpleasantness comes, no doubt, from the elements mentioned in the review; but there's something else I just can't define. I just give up, gasping like a fish. Remember, too, that this review was written for the Tennessean, not the New Republic, etc., and forgive commonplaces. My congratulations to Crane on the fine press he is getting . . . ."

-106-

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