"Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" By Walt Whitman

876 words - 4 pages

"Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" by Walt Whitman

Recurring Images and Motifs in "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"

In the poem "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" by Walt Whitman,

there are many recurring images and motifs that can be seen.

Whitman develops these images throughout the course of the

poem. The most dominant of these are the linear notion of

time, playing roles, and nature. By examining these motifs

and tracing their development, ones understanding of the poem

becomes highly deepened.

Whitman challenges the linear notion of time by

connecting past with future. This can be seen in the first

stanza, as the poem opens: "And you that shall cross from

shore to shore years hence are more to me, and more in my

meditations than you might suppose"(4-5). This lets the reader

know that he has written this with the reader in mind, even

before that reader existed. He challenges time by connecting

his time with ours. He has preconcived us reading this poem.

When we read his words we are connected to him and his feelings,

all in the same time. He is sure that after he is gone the water

will still run and people will still "see the shipping of

Manhattan/and the heights of Brooklyn" (14-15). He makes his past

and our futher all one.

No matter the time nor the distance, the reader will

experience the same way he experiences at the moment in time

he resides:

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" (23-26).

This same motif follows through to the next stanza, as he

continues to emphasize how things are the same to him as

they are to those of us interpreting the poem.

By tracing this motif we see that no matter where we are

or how far away from Brooklyn and Manhattan, the images that

Whitman saw will live on long after his passing. This deepens

the understanding of the poem and assists the reader to

comprehend Whitman’s state of reasoning when composing this poem.

He, in fact, was writing this poem to be read long after he was

gone. He "consider’d long and seriously of you before you were

born" (88). He realized that certain constants would stay the

same, including people and the roles they take in their lives.

In stanza six, the idea of playing roles develops:

Lived the same life with the rest, the same old

laughing, gnawing, sleeping,

Plays the part that still looks back on the actor or


The same old role, the role that is what we make it,

as great as we like,

Or as...

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