The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Legend” is a short poem of five stanzas of varying length. It is written in free verse and has elegiac qualities evidenced in the seriousness of the emotional statement being made about its topic: Hart Crane’s lament for a homosexual experience or (more likely) relationship recalled from his youth. His lost love has now become “legend” to him, and the poet ponders the meanings of this passing.

Although the poem is written in the first person, the poet refers explicitly to himself one time only; he creates an aura of subtlety about his work by couching most of the important statements in passive voice. Crane does not much address or even seem aware of the reader; it is as though he were whispering a secret to himself.

The first stanza is the shortest one, containing only two lines. Crane positions himself in front of a “silent” mirror where, it “is believed,” that “Realities plunge in silence by . . .” The redundancy of having a “silent” mirror in which reality plunges in “silence” is effective. His topic, in both its sexual and emotional nature, requires an absence of noise not only to preclude discovery but also to provoke an intensity in thought. Crane does not say who does the “believing,” but the believer is identified in the next stanza, where he is revealed to be the poet himself.

The reader does not yet know that the implicit “now” of the second stanza refers to the poet in the...

(The entire section is 574 words.)