Poetry Corner

Voyages V

By Hart Crane

Meticulous, past midnight in clear rime,

Infrangible and lonely, smooth as though cast

Together in one merciless white blade—

The bay estuaries fleck the hard sky limits.

—As if too brittle or too clear to touch!

The cables of our sleep so swiftly filed,

Already hang, shred ends from remembered stars.

One frozen trackless smile… What words

Can strangle this deaf moonlight? For we

Are overtaken. Now no cry, no sword

Can fasten or deflect this tidal wedge,

Slow tyranny of moonlight, moonlight loved

And changed… “There’s

Nothing like this in the world,” you say,

Knowing I cannot touch your hand and look

Too, into that godless cleft of sky

Where nothing turns but dead sands flashing.

“—And never to quite understand!” No,

In all the argosy of your bright hair I dreamed

Nothing so flagless as this piracy.

But now

Draw in your head, alone and too tall here.

Your eyes already in the slant of drifting foam;

Your breath sealed by the ghosts I do not know:

Draw in your head and sleep the long way home.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 4, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About the poem: “Voyages” appeared in White Buildings (Boni and Liveright, 1926).

About the poet: Harold Hart Crane was a poet from the Modernist movement. Born in 1899, the son of the candy maker who invented Life Savers, during his junior year in high school he dropped out of school and migrated to New York City. He was the author of White Buildings (Boni and Liveright, 1926), as well as The Bridge (The Black Sun Press, 1930). In the years following his suicide at the age of 32, Crane has been hailed by playwrights, poets, and literary critics alike (including Robert Lowell, Derek Walcott, Tennessee Williams, and Harold Bloom), as being one of the most influential poets of his generation. remembered as a key work of early Modernism. He died on April 27, 1932 after jumping off a steamship sailing through the Gulf of Mexico on its way to New York City.

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