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Biplob Prodhan
  • 3 weeks ago
  • 55
Crossing Brooklyn Ferry Poem by Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman, a renowned American poet, is celebrated for his groundbreaking work “Leaves of Grass.” His poetry captures the essence of American identity, embracing both the individual and the collective. Whitman’s free verse style and themes of democracy, nature, and humanity’s interconnectedness have left a lasting impact on literature and culture.


“Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” by Walt Whitman is a reflective poem that captures the timeless connection between individuals across generations and the shared experiences that transcend time. The speaker describes riding the ferry between Manhattan and Brooklyn, observing the bustling city, the people, and the natural landscape. Through vivid descriptions, Whitman presents the continuity of human existence, emphasizing the unity of past, present, and future. The poem highlights the idea that despite changing circumstances, the human experience remains fundamentally interconnected, inviting readers to recognize their place in this continuum and find solace in the shared bonds that link them to others across time.


The theme of “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” revolves around the interconnectedness of humanity across time and the enduring nature of human experience. Whitman uses the ferry ride as a metaphor for the journey of life, illustrating how individuals from different eras and backgrounds share common emotions, aspirations, and struggles. The poem suggests that despite the passage of time and technological advancements, the essential human experience remains constant, connecting individuals across generations. This theme prompts readers to reflect on their place in the larger timeline of history, recognizing the universality of emotions and experiences that bind humanity together.


The tone of “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” is contemplative, optimistic, and inclusive. Whitman’s language exudes a sense of wonder and curiosity as he observes the bustling city and the natural world from the ferry. The tone becomes almost philosophical as he reflects on the shared experiences of humanity across time. The poet’s use of inclusive pronouns like “you” and “I” invites readers to actively participate in his observations and reflections. The tone reflects a belief in the enduring connections between individuals, fostering a sense of unity and belonging.

Figures of Speech :

01. Metaphor: The ferry ride itself serves as a metaphor for the passage of time and the journey of life. It symbolizes the constant movement and progression of human existence.

02. Anaphora: Whitman repeats the phrase “Crowds of men and women” to emphasize the diversity and continuity of humanity over time.

03. Symbolism: The ferry, the tides, and the sunset symbolize the cycles of life, change, and renewal. The Brooklyn cityscape represents human civilization’s evolution.

04. Imagery: Vivid descriptions of sights, sounds, and sensations create a sensory experience for the reader, enhancing the connection between past and present.

05. Repetition: The repetition of “I too” in different contexts reinforces the speaker’s identification with future generations and the shared human experience.

06. Parallelism: The poem’s structure of observing the same scenes across time emphasizes the commonality of experience, demonstrating the parallel between individuals of different eras.

07. Alliteration: Phrases like “mysterious moist night-air” and “sun down in the west” use alliteration to create rhythm and evoke sensory impressions.

08. Enjambment: The use of enjambment (continuing a sentence beyond the end of a line) mirrors the continuous flow of time and experience, connecting thoughts seamlessly.

09. Synecdoche: References to “turbulent eddies,” “sparkling eyes,” and “faces” represent the larger human emotions and experiences.

10. Personification: The “questions and answers” of the ferry’s wake personify the elements of nature, suggesting a dialogue with the universe.

Whitman as a Mystic poet

Walt Whitman can be considered a mystic poet, and his poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” is a prime example of his mystical inclinations. While he’s often associated with his role as a transcendentalist and a humanist, there are distinct mystical elements in his work, including this poem.

Mysticism in poetry involves a deep exploration of spiritual and transcendent experiences, often focusing on the connection between the individual, the universe, and a higher reality. “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” showcases Whitman’s mysticism through its themes, imagery, and the way he presents his ideas.

The poem’s mystical essence lies in its portrayal of time, space, and the interconnectedness of all existence. Whitman’s contemplation of the ferry ride as a metaphor for life’s journey mirrors the mystical notion of life as a passage towards a higher understanding. The poem’s recurring phrase “I too” speaks to a sense of unity between the speaker and the reader, transcending individual identities and epochs.

Whitman’s imagery in the poem further emphasizes his mysticism. He describes the “mysterious damp night-air” and the “turbulent eddies” of the river, which can be interpreted as symbolic of the mystical forces that envelop and guide human experience. The ferry itself becomes a vessel of transformation, reminiscent of a mystic’s spiritual journey towards enlightenment. The sun, the tides, and the waves are all woven into the fabric of the poem, symbolizing the eternal and cyclical nature of existence.

Mystical experiences often involve a dissolution of boundaries between the self and the universe. Whitman achieves this through his use of the first-person perspective, allowing readers to directly engage with his observations and reflections. He invites readers to see through his eyes, bridging the gap between individual souls and drawing them into a shared spiritual journey.

Furthermore, Whitman’s mysticism is evident in his belief in the essential divinity of all things. His democratic view of humanity, where each person is equally significant and sacred, aligns with mystical ideals that see the divine presence in everything. He speaks of the “sparkling eyes” and “faces” of the people he observes, suggesting a recognition of the divine within every individual.

Whitman’s mysticism also incorporates a sense of timelessness. He suggests that moments of the past and future are connected in the present, echoing the mystical concept that all time exists simultaneously in a higher realm. This is reflected in his description of watching the same scene from different eras. The lines “Closer yet I approach you, / What thought you have of me now, I had as much of you” reveal his conviction that he shares a deep, spiritual bond with readers across time.

In conclusion, Walt Whitman can indeed be seen as a mystic poet, and “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” exemplifies his mystical tendencies. The poem delves into the interconnectedness of existence, inviting readers on a spiritual journey through time and space. Whitman’s imagery, perspective, and themes resonate with mysticism, offering readers a glimpse into his transcendental exploration of the divine in the everyday. Through his mystic lens, Whitman opens a door to a world where the boundaries between self, others, and the universe blur, allowing us to glimpse the interconnected tapestry of existence.


Whteman as a poet of Democracy

Walt Whitman, often hailed as the “poet of democracy,” eloquently embodies democratic ideals in his poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.” Through this work, Whitman explores the interconnectedness of all people, emphasizing their equality, shared experiences, and the continuity of humanity across time. The poem serves as a powerful representation of Whitman’s democratic spirit, as it encapsulates his belief in the essential unity of all individuals and the celebration of diverse human experiences.

At its core, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” speaks to the democratic principle of equality. Whitman employs inclusive language, using pronouns like “you” and “I” to address readers directly, breaking down barriers between the poet and the audience. This approach fosters a sense of camaraderie and belonging, suggesting that all individuals, regardless of their background or time period, share a common humanity. By addressing readers across time, Whitman challenges the divisions and hierarchies that can arise in society and promotes the idea that every individual’s experiences and feelings are equally valuable.

Furthermore, the poem underscores the democratic notion of unity in diversity. Whitman’s descriptions of the “crowds of men and women” in various time periods highlight the diversity of human experiences and backgrounds. Yet, he also emphasizes the universal emotions and sensations that unite people: the “tears, laughter, prayers,” and “mysterious swift motions” that transcend time. This celebration of diverse yet interconnected experiences reflects the democratic belief in recognizing and valuing the contributions of every member of society, irrespective of their differences.

Whitman’s democratic spirit is also evident in his portrayal of New York City and its inhabitants. The city serves as a microcosm of democratic ideals, where people from all walks of life come together. Whitman’s description of the bustling city, the “gliding…steamboats” and the “sparkling eyes” of individuals, exemplifies the democratic energy of an urban space where people coexist, interact, and contribute to a shared community. This portrayal resonates with his democratic belief in a society where diverse individuals thrive collectively, contributing to the social fabric.

The poem’s central metaphor of crossing the ferry carries democratic implications as well. The ferry represents the journey of life that every individual undertakes. By depicting this journey as a communal experience, Whitman emphasizes the shared nature of existence. Just as passengers on a ferry cross the same waters, the poem suggests that individuals throughout time navigate similar emotional and existential currents. This concept aligns with democratic ideals, as it reinforces the idea that no individual’s experience is isolated or insignificant; rather, each person contributes to the greater narrative of human history.

In “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” Whitman envisions a democracy of time and space. By addressing readers across generations, he blurs temporal boundaries and envisions a continuous dialogue among individuals, transcending the limitations of time. This concept aligns with democratic ideals that prioritize an ongoing exchange of ideas and perspectives, fostering a society where the voices of all citizens are heard and valued.

In conclusion, Walt Whitman’s poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” encapsulates his role as a poet of democracy. Through this work, he articulates his belief in the equality of all individuals, the unity that binds diverse human experiences, and the continuity of humanity across time. By employing inclusive language, celebrating diversity, and portraying interconnectedness, Whitman’s poem exemplifies democratic principles that champion the essential worth of every individual and their contributions to a larger, harmonious society.

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About The Author
Biplob Prodhan
Founder of EDNOUB & Ednoub Private Program


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