Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

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Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

Whitman’s poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” seeks to determine the relationship of human beings to one another across time and space. Whitman wonders what he means (not as a poet but as another anonymous individual) to the crowds of strangers he sees every day. In stanza 3 the speaker says, “I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many/ generations hence”. He assumes that they see the same things he does, and that they react in the same way, and that this brings them together in a very real sense. The ferry symbolizes this spatial and earthly movement. It is also associated with the groups of men and women who ride it, who have ridden it, and who will ride it. The coming together of these men and women symbolizes the spiritual unity of men in this world. The poet first addresses the elements — the tide, the clouds, and the sun — saying, "I see you face to face." He next observes the crowds of men and women on the ferryboats: "How curious you are to me" he says, for he thinks of these people in relation to those who "shall cross from shore to shore years hence." The poet meditates on the relationships between the various generations of men. This first section establishes the setting of the poem. The poet first responds to natural objects and then to people with the ultimate aim of bringing about an connection between himself and the reader.

In the second section, the men and women on the ferryboat become the eternal "impalpable sustenance" of the poet. He thinks of "the simple, compact, well-join'd scheme" of the universe and believes himself to be "disintegrated yet part of the scheme." He thinks again about all the people of the future who will enter the gates of the ferry and cross from shore to shore." The poet thinks about his role in relation to the nature of the universe. To him, the universe seems compact, harmonious, and well-adjusted. He is part of the multitude of men, part of the eternal processes...
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