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This article is taken from PN Review 86, Volume 18 Number 6, July - August 1992.

The Centrality of Heart Crane Chris Miller

THE GREATEST Futurist poem in a European language is Crane's 'The Marriage of Faustus and Helen'. The description does not exhaust the poem's merits; competition is scarce outside the work of Mayakovsky, who also wrote a 'Brooklyn Bridge'. Recognition of the category of Crane's successes is some assistance in the estimation of his merit. He is often seen as an exclusively American affair. When Winters compared Crane to Marlowe and Valery, Crane refused the tribute but acknowledged the association 'by kind'. The Symbolist affiliations of Crane's poetry are as important as the Futurist lineage, and their combination with the diction of the Elizabethan dramatists fulfils elements of Eliot's prescriptions to which Eliot himself never wholly attained. Eliot incorporated elements of Middleton and Chapman into 'Gerontion' at the cost of imitation; elsewhere he is as far from the dramatists as he is from Donne. By contrast, Crane aimed for a Marlovian richness of diction. In 'Voyages', a summation of the late Romantic genre of the 'poésié du depart', he achieved this, and the achievement can be understood only if it is placed alongside other masterpieces of the genre, Baudelaire's 'Le Voyage', Mallarmé's 'Brise marine', Rimbaud's 'Le Bateau ivre' and Pessoa's 'Oda maritima'. Eliot's classicizing religious temperament disinclined him to this 'voyage', of which his drowned Phlebas is the figure. It was left to Crane to specify the relation of the voyage to the poetic word, to give expression to the notion of the sea as sexual body and sexual annihilation, ...


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