Crossing Brooklyn Ferry – Walt Whitman

Brooklyn Ferry
Taken from:

As I was reading this work I was taking notes. By the end of the story, I had made a very strong connection with a flow in this piece. It appeared to me that the author was telling an important story, but was even more importantly describing the transitions through life. Within this story were the manifestations of birth, life, and the inevitable onset of death. The writer is sharing his experiences with us and hoping that we are learning from him. This is why he asks so many questions of the reader and audience throughout his work. With all that he has learned in life, he wants to be sure that he can assist in passing on this message to others and creating a guideline for them to follow. Let me explain.


“Flood-tide below me! I see you face to face!”

               This is indicative of the first sight, or entrance into this world.


“Others will enter the gates of the ferry and cross from shore to shore”

               Here it seems as if he is alluding to the fact that others are going to come and go through his life.


“Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the falling-back to the sea of the ebb-tide.”

               Finally, only half-way through the work it seems as if he is concluding his introduction with the death and eventual return to the sea of life.

The above examples are the first framework of the piece; outlining life through his birth of awareness to an eventual death.

Later on into the work, Whitman relives and explains a part of his life where he was reflective in his thought and was considering himself and whether he made the right choices. That frame is concluded with him stating that:

“The same old role, the role that is what we make it, as great as we like,”

As you can see, there is a necessary story within a story in this piece. While there is an overlay of the Brooklyn Ferry and the writer’s interactions there, he is also describing his life experience as an allegory with the Brooklyn Ferry.

3 responses to “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry – Walt Whitman”

  1. Ashley, this is a great reader’s response to that poem! I do like the details you’re picking up on, and I think you have a good handle on it. Well done! And yes, I suppose in a way you can think of the content of the poem as a story; Whitman is narrating *something*. If that makes it easier to get a handle on the poem, run with it. But don’t lose sight of the *poem* form containing that “story” since that will necessarily influence your reading as well. Make sense?


  2. Yes, that certainly makes sense. I understood the story of his poem just fine, but I tend to look for alternative meanings at times when I am reading something. The use of stories within stories can help reach a wider audience.
    However, I do not always find alternative representations in pieces of work that I read. But with this one, there were so many examples of allegory and symbolism that I could not help myself from calling them out.
    I will try to stick more to the story at hand in my future blog posts. Thank you!


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