“TIME LIKE A SERPENT DOWN HER SHOULDER, DARK, AND SPACE, AN EAGLET’S WING, LAID ON HER HAIR”:EXTRAORDINARY RARE PRESENTATION/ASSOCIATION COPY OF THE BRIDGE, INSCRIBED AND DATED IN THE YEAR OF PUBLICATION BY HART CRANE TO HIS CLOSE FRIEND, ARTIST CHARMION VON WIEGAND
CRANE, Hart. The Bridge. New York: Horace Liveright, (1930). Slim quarto, original dark blue cloth, uncut; original photographic dust jacket. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $35,000.
First American edition of Crane’s monumental work, The Bridge, an extraordinary presentation copy with an especially memorable association inscribed by Crane to his close friend, Charmion von Wiegand, a “leading mid-20th-century Geometric Abstract painter,” who was key in aiding Crane’s artistic vision for publication of The Bridge. Crane warmly inscribed this copy in the year of publication with two lines from this work’s “Powhatan’s Daughter”: “For Charmion—Time like a serpent down her shoulder, dark, And space, an eaglet’s wing, laid on her hair. With enduring affection from Hart June ‘30,” scarce in original dust jacket with photogravure of the Brooklyn Bridge from a photograph by Walker Evans.
Crane warmly inscribed this copy, quoting lines from his poem "Powhattan's Daughter," to his close friend Charmion von Wiegland, "leading mid-20th century Geometric Abstract painter," who authored the first published work on Piet Mondrian, and was one-time president of American Abstract Artists (Rubenstein, American Women Artists). On arriving in New York, as early as 1916-17, the Ohio-born Crane sought out artists such as Wiegand, who would be pivotal in guiding Crane's artistic vision for The Bridge. Early on, Wiegand's work as both artist and art critic "brought her into contact with the avant-garde, particularly leading abstractionists such as Joseph Stella and Max Weber" (Kort & Sonnebron, A to Z of American Women in the Visual Arts, 222). When Crane briefly returned home to Ohio in late 1919, he stayed in close contact with Wiegand, urging: "'Let's write and be as metropolitan as possible. You know I'm now out in those great expanses of cornfields so much talked about and sung, and you can't very well dispense with me even though you do live 'in the big city" (Letters, 22). "Acknowledging Crane's centrality as an American modernist—'I think Crane is the great poet of that generation'—Robert Lowell observed of Crane's poetry, 'not only is the tremendous power there, but somehow he got New York city" (Edelman, Transmemberment of Song, 23-4).
In yet another of their memorable letters, Crane wrote Weigand in May 1922: "The people I am closest to in English are Yeats, Eliot, Pound, and the dear great Elizabethans like Marlowe, Webster, Donne and Drayton, whom I never weary of. I've lately been enjoying Melville's Moby Dick, however" (Weber, 86)." The summer before Crane began discussing a Black Sun Press edition of The Bridge with publishers Harry and Caresse Crosby in early 1929, the poet had visited his "old friend, Charmion von Wiegand, in her summer home at Croton-on-Hudson, New York, and she had drawn his attention to a brief essay in which Stella addressed aesthetic possibilities of the Brooklyn Bridge and associated himself intimately with it" (Modern American Poetry: Illustrated Editions of The Bridge). Crane subsequently wrote Stella from Paris in January 1929: "Sometime before leaving America Charmion [Wiegand] showed me a copy of your privately issued monograph called New York, containing your essay on Brooklyn Bridge and the marvelous paintings you made not only of the Bridge but other New York subjects. And now I am writing you to ask if you will give permission to an editor friend of mine to reproduce" some of these (Knox, "Crane and Stella," Texas Studies 12:4, 689).
"There are certain single volumes of American poetry… which carry with them a special and spiritual power; they seem to arise from a mysterious impulse and to have been written from an enormous private or artistic need. The poems are full of a primal sense of voice… This tone, so apparent in Hart Crane's work… matches a sensibility which was both visionary and deeply rooted in the real," especially in The Bridge, the second and last book published during Crane's brief and tragic life (Tóibín, New York Review of Books). As a result of this work, Crane was granted a Guggenheim Fellowship and went to Mexico City to write another verse epic, which never materialized. On his way back to New York, on April 27, 1932, Crane jumped from the S. S. Orizaba into the Caribbean and was drowned. With dust jacket and frontispiece photogravures after a photograph by Crane's close friend Walker Evans, who first met the poet in the "fall of 1928 when they were both living in Brooklyn Heights… Crane accompanied Evans on some of his photographic expeditions along the docks in Brooklyn and New York, even perhaps when he first began taking photographs of the Brooklyn Bridge" (Mellow, 69). Preceded the same year by the Black Sun signed limited edition. Connolly, Modern Movement, 62. Small faint ink "x" to spine head of dust jacket.
Book with faint occasional marginal dampstaining; mild soiling to cloth, usual mild toning to spine, slight soiling, small closed tear to upper edge of scarce bright nearly fine dust jacket.