“–Pocahuntus, a well-featured but wonton yong girle…”–The words William Strachey, an English author who documented many of the first happenings in America, said about Pocahontas.
“The Harbor Dawn:” The Harbor most likely referenced is New York Harbor.
“400 years:” It has been “400 years” since Columbus arrived in America (see “Ave Maria”)
Line 4: “gongs in white surplices”- a gong covered in a white vestment usually worn by Catholic priests
Line 7: “winch engines” – a winch is a reel, roller or pulley (OED)
Line 8: “drunken stevedore” – A stevedore is a workman employed either as overseer or labourer in loading and unloading the cargoes of merchant vessels (OED).
Line 12: “darkling harbor” – A darkling is an archaic term that refers to “a child of darkness; one dark in nature or character” (OED).
Line 12: “pillowed bay”- Crane could be using pillowed on multiple levels here. “Pillowed” could mean cushy or comfy but also refers to an architectural element: a wooden crosspiece which supports the beam of a plough or the bed of a wagon; A moulding set between the abacus and echinus in the capital of a column; esp. a volute in an Ionic capital. Also attrib. in pillow capital (OED)
Line 15: “keen fifings”- While “fifings” isn’t a real word, it is probably derived from “fife” or “fifer” meaning the instrument itself or someone who plays it. This would be consistent with Crane’s use of sounds earlier in the poem.
Line 15: “eddied”- “Eddied” is also not a word but is most likely derived from “eddy.” “Eddy” is the area of dead water underneath a ship.
Line 19: “immemorially the window…the half-covered chair”-While Crane lived in New York, his apartment overlooked the Brooklyn Bridge. This window and “half-covered chair” could be referring to various things in his surroundings.
Line 2o: “sheath of pallid air” – A sheath is a case used to hold a sword or knife. “Pallid” means “lacking depth or intensity of colour; faint or feeble in colour; spec. (of the face) wan, pale, esp. from illness, shock, etc. (OED)
Line 21: “sirens”- Sirens could have multiple layers of meaning here. They could either be the drones of ambulances and emergency vehicles or the mystical Greek mythology part-bird and part-human creatures that lure sailors with their enchanting singing (OED)
Side margin: “Merge your seeds–with whom?” – the implication of this is sexual but there is no direct literary/cultural reference
Line 24: “murmurously”-with murmurs or murmuring; as a murmur (OED)
Line 25: “myriad of snowy hands”–the etymology of “myriad” has changed over time. It originally meant “ten thousand; a set of ten thousand of anything; esp. a unit of ten thousand soldiers.” Now, myriad tends to mean an innumerable amount of things, people, etc. (OED)
Line 27: “your hands within my hands are deeds…”- This is widely considered to be a love poem. Edward Brunner notes that it is important to identify who the speaker is addressing the poem to. (http://www.jstor.org/stable/20158008?seq=9)
Line 34: “From Cyclopean Towers across Manhattan waters”-The Cyclopean Towers are a geographic formation in Mount Solon, Virginia that resemble natural chimneys.
Crane could also be describing the way Manhattan skyscrapers appear when the sun reflects off them (a single beam of light being reflect, similar to the eye of Cyclops).
Cyclops was a Roman mythological character with an eye in the middle of his forehead.
Line 36: “cold gulls hither”- Gulls, or seagulls, make repeated appearances throughout “The Bridge.” “Hither” means to come near or to approach (OED).
Line 38: “mistletoe of dreams”-Seeing mistletoe in a dream is considered to be a foreshadowing of great happiness or rejoicing.
Line 39: “some distant hill”-Possibly a reference to “Quaker Hill” which appears later in the poem.
Line 40: “waking west”-Possibly a reference to the star earlier in the stanza (stars “wake” up at night)