Hart Crane, The Bridge: Introduction

We may confidently say that this message of The Bridge will be more comprehensible in the future (not in the immediate future), when the functionally limited materialism of our collectivist era has, through success, grown inadequate to the deepened needs of a mankind released from economic insecurity and prepared, by leisure, for regeneration.  For even as necessity, today and tomorrow, drives most men to think collectively in order that they may survive; necessity, day after tomorrow, will drive them to think personally (poetically, cosmically), in order that their survival may have meaning.

Commentary on Introduction

  1. Ambrose Mnemopolous Post author

    Writing at the peak of the Progressive Era, just a few years before the passage of the National Labor Relations Act and the creation of the Social Security Administration in the United States, Frank here expresses optimism that increases in automation will shorten the workweek and reduce human toil.

    The roots of this optimism can be found in historical documents from the more radical adolescence of the Progressive era, such as the preamble to the Constitution of the Knights of Labor, published in 1878. Specifically, see agenda point XIV:

    “XIV. The reduction of the hours of labor to eight per day, so that laborers may have more time for social enjoyment and intellectual improvement, and be enabled to reap the advantages conferred by the labor-saving machinery which their brains have created.”

    When Frank discusses the “materialism of our collectivist era” (i.e., Marxist social organization and “dialectical materialism”) releasing a humankind “from economic insecurity,” he is expressing an ideological and historically-motivated certainty that the gains made by earlier labor organizers (i.e., “the reduction of the hours of labor to eight per day”) will continue to create a new age of abundance rooted in automation eliminating menial labor.

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Harold Hart Crane (July 21, 1899 – April 27, 1932) was an American poet. Finding both inspiration and provocation in the poetry of T. S. Eliot, Crane wrote modernist poetry that was difficult, highly stylized, and ambitious in its scope. At age 32, Crane jumped off an ocean liner in the Gulf of Mexico.