Crossing Brooklyn Ferry
Section 4 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Others 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 floodtide, the falling back to the sea of the ebb-tide.
- The speaker seems to be on a mission to prove he's not unique. In this section he states that other people will do the exact same thing that he's doing right now – crossing from Manhattan to Brooklyn – and he finds that to be pretty cool.
- He uses the future passengers as an excuse to describe the present journey. We suppose he's right that the islands, the sunset, and the tides will be around in fifty, a hundred, or even several hundred years.
- Incidentally, we should mention one thing that's no longer a staple of New York: the Brooklyn ferries. The Brooklyn Bridge pretty much put an end to the use of ferries by commuters, which helps explain Whitman's uncharacteristic ambivalence about this engineering marvel, an example of the working man at his best.