Episode of Hands
The unexpected interest made him flush.
Suddenly he seemed to forget the pain,-
Consented,-and held out
One finger from the others.
The gash was bleeding, and a shaft of sun
That glittered in and out among the wheels,
Fell lightly, warmly, down into the wound.
And as the fingers of the factory owner’s son,
That knew a grip for books and tennis
As well as one for iron and leather,-
As his taut, spare fingers wound the gauze
Around the thick bed of the wound,
His own hands seemed to him
Like wings of butterflies
Flickering in the sunlight over summer fields.
The knots and notches,-many in the wide
Deep hand that lay in his,-seemed beautiful.
They were like the marks of wild ponies’ play,-
Bunches of new green breaking a hard turf.
And factory sounds and factory thoughts
Were banished from him by that larger, quieter hand
That lay in his with the sun upon it.
And as the bandage knot was tightened
The two men smiled into each other’s eyes.
The first thing that comes to mind upon reading this poem is a sense of calmness and relaxation. Described well is an attempt at reminiscing at one’s past, and how it may have affected life at present. It is a poem of truth, and the joy that comes with the realization of one’s self, the inner being. In the poem is a character who has injured himself during work, and has taken a recess to tend to the wound. During this time the character is able to find it within himself to discover a truth within that reveals more to him of his life than his life itself could do, having seen its entirety. It gives evidence of having lived two separate lives, one on top of the other, but neither owning the upper hand at any time. It is a poem of change, and how things never change as they are expected to do, nor do they change before our eyes as we would believe, but instead change us in a way that makes us blind to ourselves. “As the fingers of the factory owner’s son, That knew a grip for books and tennis”; here is described the man’s childhood, and here, “As well as one for iron and leather,-“, is described his adulthood, with responsibilities and duties to perform.
The style of Hart Crane is nearly unmatched. Here he uses a free verse structure, written as a Blackwood Article, in a story that depicts an event which is the theme and the subject of the poem. He uses little rhyme, with any structure, but the words flow from frame to frame as though a rhyme scheme had been used quite frivolously. There is also a great deal of imagery. A good amount of emphasis is placed upon the hands, the lifeblood of our interaction with the world, and as the hands are described against the sunlight we can nearly see a picture perfect masterpiece within our minds that helps us along in the story. There is also a well hidden hint at imagery here; “His own hands seemed to him Like wings of butterflies”, means quite clearly, that he has most recently undergone a form of metamorphosis. Any child can see similarities between the hands and the wings of a butterfly, but it is taken much further here, and stands for a change that has taken place in his life. “The knots and notches,” is more great imagery here, describing the characteristics of his hands (scars, old wounds) that stand for who he has become, and what he takes pride in.
And in the end, the one hand does win over the other. “The larger, quieter hand”, held by the hand recently injured from work in his Father’s factory, holds something more dear and meaningful to him; a memory of a lost childhood perhaps. This all makes for quite a serene mood, an atmosphere of peace and rest, and joy at having discovered oneself again. “And as the bandage was tightened The two men smiled into each other’s eyes.” Obviously, as can easily be seen now, the two men spoken of are his hands; one of them, the injured, is him now in adulthood, and the other is who he once was, and all he has ever forgotten of himself.
If there is an attitude of the poem it is as I have already said, Peace. It gives a sense of relaxation to read the poem, as well as an insight into the similarities between not only ourselves and our former lives, but to each other, as we can all relate to this poem. Hart Crane was a genius, and I see that now.