Michelle's blog

September 20th, 2010

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

Posted by michellemartins in Uncategorized

In “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”, Walt Whitman describes what to most people would be a normal aspect of life, which was riding the ferry, and turns this image into so much more. Through Whitman’s use of imagery and language when describing his personal experiences on the ferry, he’s able to convey important motifs that are present within his poem. One of the motifs that seemed to be of immense importance to Whitman was communion, or rather the relationship between the past and the future.  Whitman believed in this idea of unity between his generation and the generations to come.

We see the idea of communion between the past and the future come up throughout the course of the entire poem.  Whitman immediately draws our attention to this idea through his careful use of repetition of certain key words. For example, when in the first section he uses the words you and me. The you is referring to the future generations, and the me is referring to himself, which in this case would be the past generation. This pattern is not just seen in the first section, it is seen throughout the whole poem. Whitman also repeats the word others. We see this towards the end of section 2 and also in section 3. Here when Whitman says others he is also referring to the future generations. By using these words, he is able to include the readers in his poem. He is not simply describing his experience on the ferry, he is describing the experience that future generations will also have.

Through the use of powerful images Whitman is able to display his belief in the communion of past and future. “Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half an hour high, A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others will see them, Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the falling-back to the sea of the ebb-tide” (section 2). Through the details provided here, the reader is able to create an image of what the scenery is while on the ferry. Whitman is describing how the scenery that he is seeing now as he’s on the ferry, will be the same things that the people in future generations will be seeing. Because of this, the past and future generations are connected.

Whitman also uses many other images to relate past and future generations. For example when he says “I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine, I too walk’d the streets of Manhattan island, and bathed in the waters around it, I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me, In the day among crowds of people sometimes they came upon me” (section 5). Once again Whitman brings these images to the reader that are timeless, no matter what generation you’re in you will still see the same things that he saw. His repetition and choice of language here adds to the communal affect. The repetition of “I too” helps to reemphasize the fact that what future generations will experience, he too has. The same is seen in section 3, when Whitman repeats “just as”. He says “Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt, Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd, Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d, Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood yet was hurried” (section 3). Powerful images here relate Whitman’s past experience on the ferry to future generations experiences. The images that are described are  ones of things that will always be there, they are a part of nature and they are timeless, no matter what generation it is, those images will always be present.

Through the imagery and language that Whitman uses in the poem, he is trying to say that there is a communion between past and future generations, he tries to bring out the fact the we’re all from the same place, and since we’re all from the same place, wouldn’t we all see the same images? We, that is past and future generations, all experience the same beauty around us, and we all take a similar journey while on this ferry.  By using communal words throughout his poem, such as ties between, I too, just as, just as you, and we, Whitman is able to relate his experience on the ferry to the experience that future generations will have.

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13 Responses to ' Crossing Brooklyn Ferry '

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  1.    susanshan said,

    on September 20th, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    I think this is a very important motive. One of the most important points of the poem is this “communion” you mentioned. You do not have to know a person or even be in the same time flux in order to share a bond.

  2.    michellemartins said,

    on September 22nd, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    After reading Peter’s blog I noticed that he begins his blog post with a more personal approach than I did. He begins with the words “to me”, which right away makes his blog personal. Although his blog is personal, it is still very informative. He is explanatory, and educative throughout the blog. He provides quotes as examples, and then explains these quotes afterwards. I too similarly provided many quotes within my blog as well. A major difference however between my blog and Peter’s is that my blog is informative throughout the entire thing, it’s very hard to find a section where I reveal any personal opinions. By comparing the voice in Peter’s blog to the voice in my blog it forced me to really think about what exactly voice is. Peter’s blog enabled me to see that I can incorporate a personal aspect to my voice and still be able to present my thoughts in an informative manner.

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