Published Works

Books by Whitman



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page ] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




CROSSING BROOKLYN FERRY.

1

1FLOOD-TIDE below me! I watch you face to face;
Clouds of the west! sun there half an hour high! I see
you also face to face.

2Crowds of men and women attired in the usual cos-
tumes! how curious you are to me!
On the ferry-boats, the hundreds and hundreds that
cross, returning home, are more curious to me
than you suppose;
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years
hence, are more to me, and more in my medita-
tions, than you might suppose.


2

3The impalpable sustenance of me from all things, at
all hours of the day;
The simple, compact, well-join'd scheme—myself disin-
tegrated, every one disintegrated, yet part of the
scheme;
The similitudes of the past, and those of the future;
The glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and
hearings—on the walk in the street, and the pas-
sage over the river;
The current rushing so swiftly, and swimming with me
far away;


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 192] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



The others that are to follow me, the ties between me
and them;
The certainty of others—the life, love, sight, hearing of
others.

4Others will enter the gates of the ferry, and cross from
shore to shore;
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide;
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and
west, and the heights of Brooklyn to the south
and east;
Others will see the islands large and small;
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.


3

5It avails not, neither time or place—distance avails
not;
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or
ever so many generations hence;
I project myself—also I return—I am with you, and
know how it is.

6Just 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;
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships, and
the thick-stem'd pipes of steamboats, I look'd.

7I too many and many a time cross'd the river, the sun
half an hour high;


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 193] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



I watched the Twelfth-month sea-gulls—I saw them
high in the air, floating with motionless wings,
oscillating their bodies,
I saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of their
bodies, and left the rest in strong shadow,
I saw the slow-wheeling circles, and the gradual edging
toward the south.

8I too saw the reflection of the summer sky in the
water,
Had my eyes dazzled by the shimmering track of beams,
Look'd at the fine centrifugal spokes of light round the
shape of my head in the sun-lit water,
Look'd on the haze on the hills southward and south-
westward,
Look'd on the vapor as it flew in fleeces tinged with
violet,
Look'd toward the lower bay to notice the arriving
ships,
Saw their approach, saw aboard those that were near me,
Saw the white sails of schooners and sloops—saw the
ships at anchor,
The sailors at work in the rigging, or out astride the
spars,
The round masts, the swinging motion of the hulls, the
slender serpentine pennants,
The large and small steamers in motion, the pilots in
their pilot-houses,
The white wake left by the passage, the quick tremulous
whirl of the wheels,
The flags of all nations, the falling of them at sun-set,
The scallop-edged waves in the twilight, the ladled cups,
the frolicsome crests and glistening,
The stretch afar growing dimmer and dimmer, the gray
walls of the granite store-houses by the docks,
On the river the shadowy group, the big steam-tug
closely flank'd on each side by the barges—the
hay-boat, the belated lighter,
On the neighboring shore, the fires from the foundry
chimneys burning high and glaringly into the
night,
9


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 194] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



Casting their flicker of black, contrasted with wild red
and yellow light, over the tops of houses, and
down into the clefts of streets.


4

9These, and all else, were to me the same as they are
to you;
I project myself a moment to tell you—also I return.

10I loved well those cities;
I loved well the stately and rapid river;
The men and women I saw were all near to me;
Others the same—others who look back on me, because
I look'd forward to them;
(The time will come, though I stop here to-day and to-
night.)


5

11What is it, then, between us?
What is the count of the scores of hundreds of years
between us?

12Whatever it is, it avails not—distance avails not, and
place avails not.


6

13I 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,
In my walks home late at night, or as I lay in my bed,
they came upon me.

14I too had been struck from the float forever held in
solution;
I too had receiv'd identity by my Body;


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 195] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



That I was, I knew was of my body—and what I should
be, I knew I should be of my body.


7

15It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall,
The dark threw patches down upon me also;
The best I had done seem'd to me blank and suspicious;
My great thoughts, as I supposed them, were they not
in reality meagre? would not people laugh at
me?

16It is not you alone who know what it is to be evil;
I am he who knew what it was to be evil;
I too knitted the old knot of contrariety,
Blabb'd, blush'd, resented, lied, stole, grudg'd,
Had guile, anger, lust, hot wishes I dared not speak,
Was wayward, vain, greedy, shallow, sly, cowardly,
malignant;
The wolf, the snake, the hog, not wanting in me,
The cheating look, the frivolous word, the adulterous
wish, not wanting,
Refusals, hates, postponements, meanness, laziness, none
of these wanting.


8

17But I was Manhattanese, friendly and proud!
I was call'd by my nighest name by clear loud voices
of young men as they saw me approaching or
passing,
Felt their arms on my neck as I stood, or the negligent
leaning of their flesh against me as I sat,
Saw many I loved in the street, or ferry-boat, or public
assembly, yet never told them a word,
Lived the same life with the rest, the same old laughing,
gnawing, sleeping,
Play'd the part that still looks back on the actor or
actress,
The same old role, the role that is what we make it, as
great as we like,
Or as small as we like, or both great and small.




- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 196] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



9

18Closer yet I approach you;
What thought you have of me, I had as much of you
—I laid in my stores in advance;
I consider'd long and seriously of you before you were
born.

19Who was to know what should come home to me?
Who knows but I am enjoying this?
Who knows but I am as good as looking at you now,
for all you cannot see me?

20It is not you alone, nor I alone;
Not a few races, nor a few generations, nor a few cen-
turies;
It is that each came, or comes, or shall come, from its
due emission,
From the general centre of all, and forming a part
of all:
Everything indicates—the smallest does, and the largest
does;
A necessary film envelopes all, and envelops the Soul
for a proper time.


10

21Now I am curious what sight can ever be more
stately and admirable to me than my mast-
hemm'd Manhattan,
My river and sun-set, and my scallop-edg'd waves of
flood-tide,
The sea-gulls oscillating their bodies, the hay-boat in
the twilight, and the belated lighter;
Curious what Gods can exceed these that clasp me by
the hand, and with voices I love call me promptly
and loudly by my nighest name as I approach;
Curious what is more subtle than this which ties me to
the woman or man that looks in my face,
Which fuses me into you now, and pours my meaning
into you.

22We understand, then, do we not?


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 197] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



What I promis'd without mentioning it, have you not
accepted?
What the study could not teach—what the preaching
could not accomplish, is accomplish'd, is it not?
What the push of reading could not start, is started by
me personally, is it not?


11

23Flow on, river! flow with the flood-tide, and ebb with
the ebb-tide!
Frolic on, crested and scallop-edg'd waves!
Gorgeous clouds of the sun-set! drench with your
splendor me, or the men and women generations
after me;
Cross from shore to shore, countless crowds of passen-
gers!
Stand up, tall masts of Mannahatta!—stand up, beau-
tiful hills of Brooklyn!
Throb, baffled and curious brain! throw out questions
and answers!
Suspend here and everywhere, eternal float of solution!
Gaze, loving and thirsting eyes, in the house, or street,
or public assembly!
Sound out, voices of young men! loudly and musically
call me by my nighest name!
Live, old life! play the part that looks back on the
actor or actress!
Play the old role, the role that is great or small, ac-
cording as one makes it!
Consider, you who peruse me, whether I may not in
unknown ways be looking upon you;
Be firm, rail over the river, to support those who lean
idly, yet haste with the hasting current;
Fly on, sea-birds! fly sideways, or wheel in large cir-
cles high in the air;
Receive the summer sky, you water! and faithfully hold
it, till all downcast eyes have time to take it
from you;
Diverge, fine spokes of light, from the shape of my
head, or any one's head, in the sun-lit water;


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 198] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



Come on, ships from the lower bay! pass up or down,
white-sail'd schooners, sloops, lighters!
Flaunt away, flags of all nations! be duly lower'd at
sunset;
Burn high your fires, foundry chimneys! cast black
shadows at nightfall! cast red and yellow light
over the tops of the houses;
Appearances, now or henceforth, indicate what you are;
You necessary film, continue to envelop the soul;
About my body for me, and your body for you, be hung
our divinest aromas;
Thrive, cities! bring your freight, bring your shows,
ample and sufficient rivers;
Expand, being than which none else is perhaps more
spiritual;
Keep your places, objects than which none else is more
lasting.


12

24We descend upon you and all things—we arrest you
all;
We realize the soul only by you, you faithful solids
and fluids;
Through you color, form, location, sublimity, ideality;
Through you every proof, comparison, and all the sug-
gestions and determinations of ourselves.

25You have waited, you always wait, you dumb, beau-
tiful ministers! you novices!
We receive you with free sense at last, and are insatiate
henceforward;
Not you any more shall be able to foil us, or withhold
yourselves from us;
We use you, and do not cast you aside—we plant you
permanently within us;
We fathom you not—we love you—there is perfection
in you also;
You furnish your parts toward eternity;
Great or small, you furnish your parts toward the soul.


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.