M. D. Uroff: On "The Mango Tree"

The first poem Crane wrote on [the Isle of Pines off Cuba in 1926) is "The Mango Tree," "a little unconscious calligramme," he called it. Convinced that the mango tree was the original apple tree of Eden, Crane gives the poem the shape of a tree as if it were to stand objectively for his location in paradise. "It’s all like Christmas," the poet says at the beginning, and as the eye reads down the shape, the tree is heaped with images of light until, in its gaudy decoration, it comes to resemble a trimmed Christmas tree. In its "silking of shadows," its "golden boughs," its leaves that "spatter dawn - from emerald cloud-sprockets," its "ripe apple-lanterns" and "recondite lightning / irised," the tree becomes a "Sun-heap" where "dusk is close." Yet this brightness has been yoked ands plucked and wrenched, and even as the poet commemorates its light, people are arriving with baskets to pick its fruits, and "Fat final prophets with / lean bandits crouch" under it. The poem is a visual and verbal trick; words pile on words senselessly. Although the tree blushes, sprouts, and spatters, it remains a static image, there to be observed from its crown to its roots, even to be plucked, but to be ultimately unyielding.

… In "Quaker Hill" the subject again is the misuse of paradise, but there is no sense in that poem, as there in "The Mango Tree," of the natural luxuriance of paradise. "Quaker Hill" is simply cynical, and although there is a certain amount of cynicism in "The Mango Tree" ("When you sprouted Paradise a discard of chewing- / gum took place"), the cynicism works against a kind of lushness in the tree. The ideal, imaged in the "golden boughs" of the mango tree, has been wrenched by "old hypno- / tisms," "First-plucked before and since the Flood." Although its "riple apple-lanterns gush history," the mango is now only a tree, whose fruits are to be picked quickly and enjoyed. Its history is meaningless to the crowds that eat its fruit. The poet, like the fruit pickers, has plucked and wrenched the tree from its setting and transplanted it into words, and there it remains solidly a tree. Despite the old hypnotisms and the fat prophets and history itself, the tree does not yield its meaning to the poet."

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Title M. D. Uroff: On "The Mango Tree" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author M. D. Uroff Criticism Target Hart Crane
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 30 Jun 2021
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Hart Crane: The Patterns of His Poetry
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