University Studies of the University of Nebraska



Melvin E. Lyon

Date of this Version



1972 by the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska


No ONE HAS NOTED the extent to which Hart Crane's "The Broken Tower" not only contains many of his major ideas and elements of expression but also gives them culminating expression.1 Marius Bewley says of the poem that "the statement it makes is more central to Crane's life and his view of poetry than that of any other title in The Collected Poems,"2 but he does not develop the point. Herbert Leibowitz examines some of the recurrent images and clusters of images in Crane's work3 but sees in them no development and hence no climax. To me it seems that the recurrence of imagery in Crane's work is accompanied by a recurrence of the rational implications of the images4 and by sporadic movements toward climactic forms. Such forms vary from those which simply sum up a maximum of the multiple (and often antithetical) meanings for an element of expression to those which are the climax of an irregular chronological development. It seems to me that "The Broken Tower" contains more of these climactic forms than any other of Crane's works and thus that it, more than any other of his poems, sums up what he had written earlier and prophesies directions his later work might have taken had he lived longer.

In trying to demonstrate this assertion, I intend, first, to explicate the poem in detail. Next, I will try to show how each of the four principal elements of expression in the poem-the tower (and bells) God, Christ, and the lady-are used in the rest of Crane's work and the extent to which they find characteristic expression in "The Broken Tower." Finally, I intend, by comparing the relationship in "The Broken Tower" between three of these elements of expression with similar relationships in a key group of other works, to show that there is implied in Crane's work as a whole a pattern of psycho-sexual development which also reaches its climax in "The Broken Tower."