With that odd mixture of verbal genius and sheer bumpkinship that he so distinctively embodied from the beginning, Hart Crane plundered and ransacked the English language, especially the diction and vocabulary of the Elizabethans, like a buccaneer let loose in the royal treasure chamber. The verses he composed for his lover, the Danish sailor Emil Opffer, probably around 1925, testify to this fiercely confiscatory impulse, at once tender and swashbuckling:

In all the argosy of your bright hair I dreamed Nothing so flagless as this piracy.

Though his first masters were modern— following T. S. Eliot, he admired Baudelaire and Jules Laforgue, among others—he soon came, again largely through Eliot, to Webster, Marlowe, and Donne. For Marlowe especially he reserved an intense admiration, and his correspondence rings with praise for “dear olde Kit.” Thus, according to a letter...


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