The Journal on Voyages by Hart Crane
The poem Voyages is divided into six parts, with every sequence portraying individual theme and ideas. However, every sequence is linked to each other to make the poem a whole.
The poem starts with describing a bunch of urchins frisking on a beach, throwing sand at each other and searching for shells. The scenery is obviously gay and lively.
In the second stanza, the speaker talks about "lightning" and "thunder." These two elements of nature are associated with the sea, creating a rather terrifying image of the sea. As the sea is described as a place of danger, the speaker would like to relay a message to the urchins.
The speaker encourages the young children to carry on with their game of shells and sticks. "Bleached by time and the elements" emphasize the idea of the dangerous sea, for the shells and sticks come from the sea. "Time" is an important element in this poem, as it appears rather frequently in the poem. While enjoying their game, should not the urchins cross the line and get into the sea, for if they go beyond the line, they might face the danger of crashing onto rocks out in the ocean. "To caresses/too lichen-faithfulíK" presents an eerie image because "caresses" doesn't seem to fit in to the actually situation, it is a word of sarcasm scare the kids.
The stanza ends with the theme of this sequence: "the bottom of the sea is cruel."
In a poem about love, although it is not really clear in this sequence (we will see what as we go on subsequent sequence. The first sequence tries to discourage one from a voyage, for the sea is cruel. Human beings are being described as ship "spray cordage of your bodies." A voyage is a voyage of love.
The first stanza of the second sequence is closely linked to the first sequence, by saying, "-And yet this great wink of eternity." In this stanza the sea is being associated with Water Goddess: Undine. The sea is also described as "rimless" "unfettered" to emphasize that it has no boundary. "Eternity" is the word both explains the state of the sea and gives it a sense of godliness. The water goddess who enjoys "eternity" is laughing at the restriction of human love, this is seen in the last line of the first stanza.
In the second stanza, the sea takes on a much more prominent image of a godlike ruler, we can see from "scrolls of silver," "sceptre terror," etc. The sea is like a goddess having the authority to hold "sessions" in order to pass judgment of "well or ill." The authority seems like fate that is in control of all human enterprise "but the pieties of lovers' hands. Love has the power and is morally right to escape fate. Now it is rather obvious that there is a twist in the transition from the first sequence to the second. Love does not suffer under the cruel sea.
The fourth stanza starts with the reminder of time, as "her turning shoulders," most probably the waves, "wind the hours." It too reveals the fact that human love has to submit to time. Thus, hasten to enjoy and treasure love while the sea's precious resources are still available. The words "her penniless Rich palms" is an interesting expression as the sea is penniless. In the sense that it is boundless but emotionally rich, with storms, waves, etc. The speaker perceives "sleep, death, desire" as forms of beauty; thus, "while they are true" seize the day of love.
In the first line of this last stanza "time" again is brought out. The speaker asks to be set in time, to enjoy the change in seasons and appreciate the beauty of the world. Let not the "minstrel galleons" (which are vessels of song) lead him to the shore, until the end (death) of love. This stanza carries on the idea of treasuring love as explains in the previous stanza. In other words, let the voyage of love continues. The last line in this last stanza ends by saying till love dies, it will be gazing in the direction of a paradise of timeless beauty. The line coincides with the first line of the sequence "and yet this great wink of eternity."
The first line in this sequence reinforces the idea of Love being like the sea is magnificent and infinite by saying "Infinite consanguinity it bears". The scene moves back to accommodate a wider view, which includes also the sky, so as to portray the merging of the sea and the sky. The word " resigns" implies that the sky is giving herself to the sea. At this instant, the sky and the sea are the personification of a pair of lovers. The speaker simultaneously imagines himself walking through the "water lanes" towards his lover. The procession is a majestic one for the "water lane" was ribboned. Obviously, the voyage is something that is of great significance to the speaker and is what he yearns to go through. At the other end of the voyage, the lover is like the sea lifting his arms to welcome the speaker. The union of the lovers acquires a religious sense because of the word "reliquary."
Upon the union of the lovers, the second stanza had them furthering their voyage into the depth of the sea, "íK admitted through black swollen gates", still in conjunction with the last line in the first sequence, "The bottom of the sea is cruel." Along the journey they passes through "gates", "pillars", "pediments", etc, which seems to be the depiction of the palace of Undine, the water goddess mentioned in the second sequence. Seemingly, the arrival at this sacred place implies that love is divine. This is further proved by the following description of the speaker "Light wrestling there incessantly with light, / Star kissing star through wave unto/ Your body rocking!" Ecstasy of love is obtained at this very instant, whereby even "light" and "stars" imitate human beings in getting involved in sexual activities. Since Love is divine, death in any form will not set upon "carnage" on it. Thus, to the speaker ecstatic love will continue day after day. The word "song" adjourns to the "minstrel galleons" in the second sequence with an association with paradise, the highest state of the achievement of love.
A destination was attained, the voyage of love continues, "Permit me voyage, love, into your handsíK
Everything eventually came to a still after the highest state of love achievement. The word "gulf" in the third line of the first stanza is used with a hidden meaning that hints the relationship between the lovers was drifting apart. Although the speaker does feel uneasy with the situation he is in, he still stresses that there is no "greater love" besides his, could run through hardships of the mortal world to preserve and deliver "immortality" to his lover.
However, words like "irrefragibly", "logically" and "regioníK to wreathe" suggest that this relationship of the lovers does not survive through immortality. Decline of the relationship is foreseen by the speaker when he says "Portending eyes and lips and making told/ The chancel port and portion of our June--". Puns used in this stanza like "fragrance" and "irrefragible", "portending", "port" and "portion" seems not to be having much association.
The speaker sets a question in the third stanza of this sequence to persuade him to believe in reality. On another basis, his question derives from the unjust treatment he gets where he has to "first be lost in fatal tides to tell" "lost in fatal tides" obviously means the loss of love.
The word "resign" in the next stanza is a depressing mood of the speaker. "The harbor shoulders to resign in mingling/ Mutual bloodíK" too expresses the main theme of this sequence: the dying of love. In the fourth line, "widening noon" used to describe the speaker's lover implies that his lover is not much affected by the concern of the speaker, which is the weakening of their relationship. "Insinuations" to the speaker is something that is unpleasant, but to his lover "bright" is the word to describe it.
The sequence ends with the speaker trying to deceive himself that love is still with him, for he exclaims that he still receive "The secret oar and petals of all love." However, this is merely "expectant."
It is past midnight, the sky is clear and the surrounding is in a sense of serenity. This serenity to the speaker is but a sense of coldness and loneliness, even with the presence of his lover. The moon, supposedly, a memento of numerous ecstatic nights the lovers spent together, now is "one merciless white blade" that relentlessly sever both the relationship of the lovers and the heart of the speaker. In the last line of the first stanza "The bay estuaries fleck the hard sky limits." the theme of separation is further extended. Firstly, "The bay estuaries" are the points of division between the sea and rivers; thus an obvious symbol of separation. The sky no longer merges with the sea, like in the case of the third sequence, for "the hard sky limits" has been sketched out.
In the second stanza, "remembered stars" too reminds the speaker of his relationship, but "The cables of our sleepíK" "Already hang, shred endsíK" indicate that love is no longer properly intact. The moonlight is being described as "deaf" and unheeding, as the speaker asks, "íK What words/ Can strangle this deaf moonlight? For we// Are overtaken."
Again, the idea of separation could be seen in the third stanza from the word "sword". Furthermore, the depressing situation is described as "tidal wedge", which states a harmful development. "Slow tyranny of moonlightíK" is a slow torture that the speaker must endure. "Moonlight loved/ And changedíK" just like his lover who had loved him and had changed now. The run-on lines in both second and third stanza shows that emotion of the speaker has affected the speaker to the degree of lacking fluency in his language.
In the fourth stanza, the speaker describes the eye of his lover as "the godless cleft of sky" where he cannot look into. This is also the place where divine love no longer exists. The lack of physical contact is a visual image of the distance between the lovers-"íK I cannot touch your handíK" In the "godless cleft of sky" "nothing turns" as the loss of love means also the loss of live, what left is "dead sands."
The speaker protests by saying "-And never to quite understand!" He stresses that he had never dream of this unprepared journey of love and passion ("argosy of your bright hair") but ends up facing the cruelty of the sea ("this piracy").
In the last stanza, although the speaker understands that his lover's view has deviated ("Your eyes already in the slant of drifting foam;"); his lover's mind is no longer with him ("Your breath sealed by the ghosts I do not know:", he still hope that his lover would come back and dream on with him on the voyage of love.
In this sequence, the speaker is a swimmer who has just underwent a shipwreck. The surrounding seems to be unfamiliar to him as he describes it as "stranger skies." This could also be partly due to the fact that the speaker is blinded. In this stanza, words like "bright" and "morning" stands out from the rest. The cruel sea is depicted as "bright dungeons" that "lift/ of swimmersíK" The word "morning" explains the speakers need to obtain a new life, this reminds me of the idea of "born again" brought out by Jonathan Edwards. The imagery of "the sun's/ Red kelson" in the second stanza is another scene of hope and life.
The speaker expresses his need to be saved when he says "O rivers mingling toward the sky/ And harbor of the phoenix' breast" The following lines enhance the portrayal of the speaker as a blinded personnel; "My eyes pressed blackíK" and "blinded guest."
In the fourth stanza, the speaker shows the uncertainty of his request to be saved when he says "Waiting, afire, what name, unspoke, / I cannot claimíK". The last line in this stanza has the speaker pleading for "Some splintered garland for the seer"; in parallel to this, the speaker seems to be asking for a float that could save him from drowning.
"Beyond siroccos harvesting/ The solstice thunders, crept away" explains the end of the hot desire the speaker engaged in in the previous voyages. In the sixth stanza, "Creation's blithe and petalled word" is the enhancement of the "reborn" idea. The goddess in this stanza has two possibilities: the first is the water goddess whom was mentioned in the second sequence; the second is the goddess of dawn whom is to give the speaker new life. Upon reaching this stanza, we are clear that the speaker has finally overcame the unfortunate encounter in the voyage, for he sees the eyes of the goddess "That smile unsearchable repose."
In the seventh stanza, the rainbow is a promise of a better life and it wires around the continual hair, which supposedly lost it upon the lost of his lover.
"The image Word" is an "unbetrayable reply" that promises a new life for the speaker. The voyages of the speaker are tours of life, which include the experience of love, sufferings and enlightenment. Through the process of life, the speaker understands its true meaning, and hence grows to appreciate it.