I don’t wish to quarrel with all of your judgments; I feel that some of them are illuminating. Nor should our philosophical differences be resurrected again except that you ascribe, again and again, quite different objectives on my part than anything said in the text could reasonably warrant. … People can’t be said to "fail" in matters they never thought of undertaking, though such re-iterations as yours may prove impressive enough to strangers.
Your primary presumption that The Bridge was proffered as an epic has no substantial foundation. You know quite well that I doubt that our present stage of cultural development is so ordered yet as to provide the means or method for such an organic manifestation as that. Since your analysis found no evidence of epic form, no attempt even to simulate the traditional qualifications or pedantic trappings, – then I wonder what basis you had for attributing such an aim to the work, – unless, perhaps, to submit me to an indignity which might be embarrassing on the grounds that I could be stripped of unjustified pretensions.
The fact that The Bridge contains folk lore and other material suitable to the epic form need not therefore prove its failure as a long lyric poem, with interrelated sections. Rome was written about long before the age of Augustus, and I dare say that Virgil was assisted by several well travelled roads to guide him, though it is my posthumous suggestion that when we do have an "epic" it need necessarily incorporate a personalized "hero." …
My acknowledgment of Whitman as an influence and living force: "Not greatest, thou – not first, nor last – but near" [l. 200, "Cape Hatteras"], as I qualify it – apparently this discolored the entire poem in your estimation. Thereafter you can see little but red, and throw all logic to the winds. You can even commit the following example of pure non sequitur: "All three (Whitman, [Robinson] Jeffers, Crane) are occasionally betrayed by their talents into producing a passage better than their usual run, but this only goes to prove the fallacy of their initial assumptions [Crane’s italics]." This proves actually nothing whatsoever, unless it be your assumption that a horse cannot run without breaking out of harness. You might as well say that maples turn red in autumn. But that only goes to prove the uselessness of rain.