Line 156: “The stars have grooved”- “In stanza eleven…the stars are associated with victimizing values, and we are reminded of all the promises and prophecies that take a man’s fancy in the movie theatre of ‘To Brooklyn Bridge’ and on the train of ‘The River’” (Combs 147). “grooved”-To cut in the form of a groove or channel; to excavate (a channel). Also, to force itself along a channel. (OED)
Line 157: “surcease”- The action, or an act, of bringing or coming to an end; (a) cessation, stop; esp. (a) temporary cessation, suspension, or intermission. (OED)
Line 159: “Ascensions”- The rising of a celestial body; formerly, also, the increasing elevation of the sun in the heavens between the vernal equinox and summer solstice (OED).
Line 160: “elegiac” – Of the nature of an elegy; pertaining to elegies; hence, mournful, melancholy, plaintive; also (rarely) of a person, melancholy, pensive (OED).
Lines 159-167: reference to Walt Whitman’s “Lilacs” elegy (Bloom 103).
Line 162: “loam”- Used loosely for: Earth, ground soil (OED)
Line 162: “travail”- Bodily or mental labour or toil, especially of a painful or oppressive nature; exertion; trouble; hardship; suffering (OED)
Line 162: “tally”-A stick or rod of wood, usually squared, marked on one side with transverse notches representing the amount of a debt or payment. The rod being cleft lengthwise across the notches, the debtor and creditor each retained one of the halves, the agreement or tallying of which constituted legal proof of the debt, etc. (OED)
Line 166: “bound”- A landmark indicating the limit of an estate or territory (OED)
Line 169: “glacial”- Full of, or having the nature of, ice; cold, icy, freezing (OED)
Line 169: “sierras”- In Spain and parts of Latin America: A range of hills or mountains, rising in peaks which suggest the teeth of a saw (OED)
“The high Sierras from Glacier Point” by William Henry Jackson (between 1880 and 1900) Courtesy of The Library of Congress American Memory
Line 170: “Hermetically”- Used to denote a method of sealing or closing a tube or vessel by fusing it at the opening, or by soldering or welding; hence, by any mode which renders it absolutely air-tight.
Also: Surg. Used of a method of dressing gunshot wounds.
This is especially interesting given the attention paid to Walt Whitman who performed the task of wound dresser during the civil war.
Line 170: “condor zones”- “…the ‘Cape Hatteras’ section…is bult around a central imagery of airplanes and open air. Suffice to say, almost every serpent figure is balanced somewhere by a bird” (Trachtenberg 92-93).
Line 170: “zenith”- The point of the sky directly overhead; the highest point of the celestial sphere as viewed from any particular place; the upper pole of the horizon (OED)
Line 171: “albatross”- Most likely a reference to Samuel Colleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” also, “In the last section of ‘Cape Hatteras’ Whitman is constantly presented as facing the dissolution of things, symbolized by the death of an albatross and those slain in war” (Combs 148).
Line 173: “shivered”- To break or split into small fragments or splinters. (OED)
Line 176: “plummet”- A piece of lead or other heavy material attached to a line, used for measuring the depth of water; a sounding lead. (OED)
Line 179: “pallid”- Lacking depth or intensity of colour; faint or feeble in colour; spec. (of the face) wan, pale, esp. from illness, shock, etc. Chiefly poet. before 19th cent. (OED)
Line 179-181: “Because he has observed the waste of war and known the tragedy of ‘fraternal massacre’ during the Civil War, Whitman is chosen by Crane to lead modern man out of the ‘blind ecstasy’ whose ultimate end is disaster” (Hazo 103).
Line 181: “Appomattox”- The location of the battle that marked Robert E. Lee’s surrender during the civil war. (Appomattox)
Line 181: “Somme”- “the Battle of the Somme is famous chiefly on account of the loss of 58,000 British troops (one third of them killed) on the first day of the battle, 1 July 1916” during WWI (Duffy).
Line 182: “cowslip”- The common name of Primula veris, a well-known wild plant in pastures and grassy banks, blossoming in spring, with drooping umbels of fragrant yellow flowers. Also called paigle. (OED)
Line 182: “shad-blow”- Also commonly known as shad-bush; the genus Amelanchier, esp. A. canadensis, also called June-berry or service-berry. (OED)
Line 184: “rife”- With singular nouns: abundant, plentiful, ample. Now rare. (OED)
Line 184: “loam”- Used loosely for: Earth, ground soil. arch. (OED)
Line 187: “blue-writ”- A writ of bodily attachment (“Blue Writ”) is issued for somebody’s arrest when they have traditionally missed a court date or payment
Line 191: “Klondike”- May refer to the “Yukon Gold Rush” along the Klondike River.
191: “edelweiss”- An Alpine plant, Gnaphalium Leontopodium or Leontopodium alpinum, remarkable for its white flower, growing in rocky places, often scarcely accessible, on the Swiss mountains. Also attrib., as in edelweiss-lace. (OED)
191: “occult”- To hide, conceal; to cut off from view by interposing something. (OED)
191: “vizored”- Of a cap: peaked (OED)
Line 193: “palisades”- Originally: a fence made of wooden pales or stakes fixed in the ground, forming an enclosure or defence. Subsequently also: a fence made of metal railings. (OED)
Line 195: “arcades”- A vaulted place, open at one or both sides; an arched opening or recess in a wall. Obs. (OED)