To Brooklyn Bridge

by Hart Crane
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What literary devices does Hart Crane use in “To Brooklyn Bridge”?

The literary devices Hart Crane uses in “To Brooklyn Bridge” include apostrophe, assonance, alliteration, and simile.

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In “To Brooklyn Bridge,” Hart Crane employs a large number of literary devices. In the poem as a whole, the speaker uses apostrophe, direct address to an absent person, an idea, or an object. Other devices are assonance, alliteration, consonance, and simile.

In this use of apostrophe, the bridge itself is addressed, using “thou,” which is the informal (now archaic) form of you. This device becomes apparent in stanza 4, which begins, “And Thee, across the harbor.”

Crane makes frequent use of assonance and alliteration. Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds between words near each other. Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of a word. He sometimes combines it with consonance, the repetition of consonant sounds elsewhere in a word.

Assonance is prominently featured in stanza 1, especially in the short i sound that appears in “chill,” “rippling,” “wings,” “dip,” “pivot,” “shedding,” “rings,” “building,” and “liberty.” It is also used in the long i sound of “white” and “high” and the long a sound of “chained bay.” Alliteration is featured in the r of “rippling rest” and the s and closely related sh of “seagull’s,” “shall,” and “shedding.” This is combined with consonance using s as the final sound of numerous words.

How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest

The seagull’s wings shall dip and pivot him,

Shedding white rings of tumult, building high

Over the chained bay waters Liberty—

Further instances of alliteration and consonance using s and sh appear in stanza 5: “subway scuttle, cell,” “speeds,” “shrill shirt,” and “sails.”

A simile is a comparison of unlike things for effect using like or as. In stanzas 1 and 2, the “seagull’s wings” are compared to “sails.” This is combined with a metaphor, a direct comparison of unlike things, as the sails are said to cross pages, thus comparing to numbers:

As apparitional as sails that cross

Some page of figures to be filed away.

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