Crossing Brooklyn Ferry
by Walt Whitman
Section 16 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
It 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,
Blabbed, blushed, resented, lied, stole, grudged,
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.
- Continuing the theme of his dark and shadowy thoughts, the speaker says he knows evil as well as we do. Hey, we're not admitting anything (hehe…). But he does.
- He gives us a list, or catalogue, of bad things he has done. They are a fairly typical group of sins, including anger, vanity, and a healthy dose of sex, including "hot wishes I dared not speak."
- He compares himself to animals and says they are "not wanting in me," which means they are not lacking. Instead of saying, "I have these vices," he says, "I'm not missing these vices," as if they were an essential part of him.
- Whitman valued honesty and didn't like to keep things behind closed doors.