ii. Choose one of the stanzas from Walt Whitman’s poems (in LEO) and discuss how it has amplified or enhanced your understanding of a particular place or event seen in today’s travels through New York. Try to imitate the style of your poem by writing one stanza which describes the place or event that you have chosen to focus on.
Crossing Brooklyn Ferry
Part 3, stanza 1
It avails not, time nor place—distance avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence,
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,
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the thick-stemm’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.
Brooklyn was an incredible experience, that Whitman’s ‘Crossing Brooklyn Ferry’ enhanced immensely. It was not crossing the river by ferry, but by walking across the bridge, that the same enchantment that Whitman described was emulated. First published in 1856 as “Sun-Down Poem” in the 2nd edition of Leaves of Grass, then later “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”, in 1860, Whitman has foreshadowed the constancy of the Brooklyn bridge and its ability to connect people, place and purpose. Whitman notes ‘yet with the swift current, I stood yet hurried, / Just as you look on the numberless masts of shops and thick-stemm’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.’ It is within these two lines that the experience of crossing the river has withstood the continuum of time. Within 2018 on my travels to New York, ‘I stood yet hurried’ amongst the bustling of people making their way across the bridge, whilst still in the moment. This oxymoronic statement perfectly emulates the atmosphere of the crossing. People are caught in the beauty of the journey, yet focused on their destination. This process has been one that Whitman describes as the ‘impalpable sustenance of me.’ This deification, a disintegration into New York, as a place, yet as a living entity. It is these people who cross, from place to place, who travel, live and work, that constitute New York, and animate it into the being that it is. It is amazing to acknowledge that even in the 1860s, ‘other will enter… Others will watch… Others will see…’. As an ‘Other’, I have entered, watched and seen the beauty that lies between New York and Brooklyn. It’s a combination of the water, the expansive sky, embedded with tall towers, the bustle of the city, the Statue of Liberty. As you view this piece iconography representing freedom, it marries well with the freedom of the individual in this action of crossing the Brooklyn (bridge). Whitman celebrates the individual: ’Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes, how curious you are to me!’ I feel that this poem highlights the brilliance of New York, of the people that constitute it, and the timelessness that this amazing city has.
(Image was taken on my visit to Brooklyn Bridge #nofitler)
My attempt to emulate Whitman in my description of Brooklyn Bridge:
Crossing Brooklyn Bridge
It avails not, time nor place – distance avails not,
For it was yesterday, today, tomorrow, or in the hundred years forward,
You would feel the breeze whip through your hair, the refreshing chill on your face
You would feel the vibrations of the hurrying cars beneath your feet, a comforting hum,
You would feel the air, fresh and free as you inhale, a breath of liberty
You would feel the city, as you see it, the tall buildings of promise, for more for you to see.
As you cross the Brooklyn Bridge, many run, many dance, many stroll, many bustle
Whatever their cause, they cross
Whatever their destination, they cross.
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence have more to see,
When you cross that Bridge of liberty.