Hart Crane’s “My Grandmother’s Love”

Hart Crane is sometimes criticized for being obscure, even a bit precious with his pedantic allusions and difficult subject matter to express his personal points of view. Here is one poem that is very understandable which speaks to women and their grandchildren, a group not often the subject of twentieth century poetry.

MY GRANDMOTHER'S LOVE LETTER

There are no stars tonight
But those of memory.
Yet how much room for memory there is
In the loose girdle of soft rain.

There is even room enough
For the letters of my mother’s mother,
Elizabeth,
That have been pressed so long
Into a corner of the roof
That they are brown and soft,
And liable to melt as snow.
Over the greatness of such space
Steps must be gentle.
It is all hung by an invisible white hair.
It tremble as birch limbs webbing the air.

And I ask myself:

“Are your fingers long enough to play
Old keys that are but echoes:
Is the silence strong enough
To carry back the music to its source
And back to you again
As though to her?”

Yet I would lead my grandmother by the hand
Through much of what she would not understand;
And so I stumble. And the rain continues on the roof
With such a sound of gently pitying laughter.

This poem is a departure from Hart Crane’s other poems that search his soul, a poem that tells of his desire to link himself with a relative who has lived her life before him. He strives to find the connection: There are no stars tonight But those of memory...in the loose girdle of soft rain.

Crane paints the scene. He finds his grandmother’s love letters hidden in a corner of the attic, brown and soft...liable to melt as snow...hung by an invisible white hair...

He hopes the link is strong enough to let him talk with her of things he knows she will not understand about his life. And the rain continues on the roof With such a sound of gently pitying laughter.

This is a poem for grandmothers and their grandchildren, expressing the connection a grandmother would hope her grandchildren would want to experience. There is much neither generation will understand about the other, and yet the compassion and the love for one another exists.
Diane McCormick

What do you think?