The Broken Tower


Hart Crane

The bell-rope that gathers God at dawn

Dispatches me as though I dropped down the knell

Of a spent day—to wander the cathedral lawn

From pit to crucifix, feet chill on steps from hell.

Have you not heard, have you not seen that corps

Of shadows in the tower, whose shoulders sway

Antiphonal carillons launched before

The stars are caught and hived in the sun's ray?

The bells, I say, the bells break down their tower

And swing I know not where. Their tongues engrave

Membrane through marrow, my long-scattered score

Of broken intervals...And I, their sexton slave!

And so it was I entered the broken world

To trace the visionary company of love, its voice

An instant in the wind(I know not whither hurled)

But not for long to hold each desperate choice.

My word I poured. But was it cognate, scored

Of that tribunal monarchs of the air

Whose thigh embronzes earth, strikes crystal Word

In wounds pledged once to hope—cleft to despair?

The steep encroachments of my blood left me

No answer (could blood hold such a lofty tower

As flings the question true?) — or is it she

Whose sweet mortality stirs latent power?—

And through whose pulse I hear, counting the strokes

My veins recall and add, revived and sure

The angelus of wars my chest evokes:

What I hold healed, original now, and pure...

And builds, within, a tower that is not stone

(Not stone can jacket heaven)— but slip

Of pebbles,— visible wings of silence sown

In azure circles, widening as they dip

The matrix of the heart, lift down the eye

That shrines the quiet lake and swells a tower...

The commodious, tall decorum of the sky

Unseals her earth, and lifts love in its shower.


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