In response to:
Old Campaigners from the October 14, 1976 issue
To the Editors:
John Thompson’s review of two books of poems (NYR, October 14) closes with an allusion to The Bridge, which Mr. Thompson finds “barely” convincing as a “wild apotheosis of engineering.” Mr. Thompson’s tone indicates that this is a low-pitched compliment but a compliment all the same. Nevertheless, he misquotes Crane—”unfractured idiom, immaculate sigh of stars.” The first word ought to be unfractioned. And if he had taken the stanza as a whole it would have seemed a good deal less misty.
Again the traffic lights that skim thy swift
Unfractioned idiom, immaculate sigh of stars,
Beading thy path—condense eternity:
And we have seen night lifted in thine arms.
You may fracture an idiom of speech. The bridge’s idiom is unfractioned because it gives, to all who look on it, one lasting sign of a vision shared by its builder and those for whom it was built. What Crane says, is: the vision does not lie in fragments. “Condense eternity,” by the way, because the lines of light on either side of the bridge, as they converge at a distant point, look like a path that has no end. Anyone who cares to test the accuracy of Crane’s impression ought to look through his windshield on a clear night.
D. L. Abramovitch
John Thompson replies:
I thank D.L. Abramovitch for mending the quotation, and for the analysis of Crane’s lines.