Hart Crane's Harp of Evil: A Study of Orphism in the Bridge

Hart Crane's Harp of Evil: A Study of Orphism in the Bridge

Hart Crane's Harp of Evil: A Study of Orphism in the Bridge

Hart Crane's Harp of Evil: A Study of Orphism in the Bridge

Synopsis

Wolf interprets Crane's poem in the context of pre-Christian Orphic mythology and demonstrates why critics have been confused when attempting to interpret the work in a framework of Christian criticism.

Excerpt

Critical evaluation of Hart Crane major poem The Bridge has generally been impeded by failure to find an underlying vision or structure which binds the sections of the poem into a coherent, successful whole. The purpose of this study is to suggest such an underlying thought and structure. Critical approaches which have led to judgment of the poem as a failure generally fall into one of two categories. Either the critic, contrary to Crane's own admonition that the poem must be read in context of the whole, judges the poem section by section, a method analogous to taking single lines of a poem and judging their poetic merit without reference to the context in which they occur, or the critic recognizes The Bridge as a visionary whole but finds difficulty in defining the vision and judges the poem overall as a failure because it does not accord with a type of Christian vision. What is suggested here is that The Bridge is a coherent, successful whole when considered in its proper visionary context, and that this vision is not a conventional Judeo-Christian but an Orphic vision.

Crane's impetus for writing The Bridge, his "myth for America," is his consideration of America as a promised land which has betrayed its promise and failed to fulfill the expectations of those who came to it as a new "Garden of Eden." His underlying implication in The Bridge is that America fails its promise because Americans follow a doctrine (the Judeo-Christian) which, instead of fusing nature and modern technology into a universal harmony, presents nature as an enemy to be conquered and rejected. In essence, The Bridge is Crane's presentation of an alternative mythology or belief, one of wholeness, which Crane believes will cure the ills of American society and redeem America.

That his proposed approach for accomplishing this in his poetry is the pre-Christian or proto-Christian Orphic mythology . . .

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