“O Carib Isle!” is a lyric poem of thirty-four lines divided into seven irregular stanzas with intermittent rhyme. The stanzas are further grouped into two sections followed by a concluding four-line stanza. The poem presents a beach scene in which a Caribbean island teeming with nonhuman life is associated with death in the mind of the speaker, the poet Hart Crane himself rather than an imaginary persona. In the first stanza, the poem describes the foot end of a grave in white sand where lilies have been laid and a tarantula rustles among the dry flower stalks. Crabs scuttling sideways seem to rearrange the letters of the name of the dead written in the sand. However, nothing in nature seems to mourn except a partly withered eucalyptus plant.
In the second and third stanzas, the speaker sees the seashells littering the sand as mother-of-pearl “frames of tropic death.” Empty of the bodies that once gave them life, the shells themselves are reminders of death. The shells also seem to the speaker to mark off graves in squared patterns in the sand. If the speaker can count these shells, then he may “speak a name” that the names of the living and dying trees and flowers near the beach contradict. The name may be death, or it may be God. The “brittle crypt” suggests shells and bones in which the dead are encrypted. A wind mounting toward hurricane force also suggests the poet’s withdrawn breath. The breathless silence evokes the atmosphere...
(The entire section is 494 words.)