Bob Dylan And Hart Crane (Part II)

Bob Dylan And Hart Crane (Part II)

by Larry Fyffe

Old World poet Thomas Eliot’s angst-ridden existentialist vision of humankind, objective correlatives in tow, shakes the New World hopes of poet Hart Crane to the core:

His thoughts delivered to me
From the white coverlet and pillow
I see now, were inheritances
Delicate riders of the storm
(Hart Crane: Praise For An Urn)

A broken Hart there be in the following song lyrics:

Riders on the storm
Into this house we're born
Into this world we're thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out on loan
(The Doors: Riders On The Storm ~ Jim Morrison)

And in the following western cowboy song:

As the riders loped on by him, he heard one call his name
If you want to save your soul from ridin' on our range
Then cowboy change your ways today, or with us you will ride
Tryin' to catch the devil's herd across these endless skies
(Death Valley Rangers: Ghost Riders In The Sky ~ Stan Jones)

Little wonder singer/songwriters look for some way outta such a god-forsaken place:

I was burnt out from exhaustion, buried in the hail
Poisoned in the bushes, and blown out on the trail
Hunted by a crocodile, ravaged in the corn
"Come in", she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm"
(Bob Dylan: Shelter From The Storm)

The poetry of Hart Crane be rather dark and mournful akin to that of John Keats:

As though the waters breathed that you might know
'Memphis Johnny', 'Steamboat Bill', 'Missouri Joe'
Oh, lean from the window if the train slows down
As though you touched  hands with some  ancient clown
A little while gaze absently below
And hum 'Deep River' with them while they go
(Hart Crane: The River)

Referencing the song below concerning a steamboat wreck:

Steamboat Bill, steamin' down the Mississippi
Steamboat Bill, a mighty man was he
Steamboat Bill, he was going to beat the record
of the Robert E. Lee
(Irving Kaufman: Steamboat Bill ~ Shields, et al)

Both the song and poem above influence the following song lyrics updated with the possibility of a sex-wreck:

Well, I ride on a mail train, babe, can't buy a thrill
Well, I been up all night, leanin' on the windowsill
Well, if I die on the top of the hill
And, if I don't make it, you know my baby will
(Bob Dylan: It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry)

To understate matters, Crane’s broken view of Walt Whitman’s optimism is more epic in scale than that of Bob Dylan:

Or to read you Walt, - knowing us in thrall
To the deep wonderment, our native clay
Whose depth of red, eternal flesh of Pocahontas
Those continental folded eons, surcharges
With sweetness below derrick, chimneys, tunnels
(Hart Crane: Cape Hatteras)

No Romantic Transcendentalist poet of yesteryear is Hart Crane:

Young wife, how beautiful the months swept by
Within the bower methinks I view thee still
The meek observance of thy lifted eye
Bent on thy lord, and prompt to do his will ....
Forgotten race, farewell! Your haunts we tread
Our mighty rivers speak your words of yore
Our mountains wear them on their misty head
Our sounding cataracts hurl them to the shore
(Lydia Sigourney: Pocahontas)

Hart personifies America as Mother Earth. She’s forced to carry the weight of the industrial capitalist’s dream of technological splendour:

The fog leans one last moment on the sill
Under the mistletoe of dreams, a star
As though to join us at some distant hill
Turns in the waking west, and goes to sleep
(Hart Crane: The Harbour Dawn)

Bob Dylan is rather sardonic about it all:

Summer days and summer nights are gone
I know a place where there's still
Somethin' goin' on
I got a house on a hill
I got hogs out in the mud ....
Got a long-haired woman
She got royal Indian blood
(Bob Dylan: Summer Days)

What else is here?

An index to our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page.  You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.

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