Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
I too many and many a time crossed the river, the sun half an hour high,
I watched the Twelfth Month sea-gulls—I saw them high in the air, floating with motionless wings, oscillating their bodies,
I saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of their bodies, and left the rest in strong shadow,
I saw the slow-wheeling circles, and the gradual edging toward the south.
- Now Whitman begins using one of his favorite and most famous phrases: "I too."
- He's being very sneaky and trying to draw us into his experience…by pretending that it was really our experience. He's like, "Oh, so you've crossed a river many times a half hour before sunset. How funny – me too!" And some of us might be thinking, "Well, actually no, I use the Brooklyn Brid-," but we don't complete our thought, because that would make Whitman sad. Instead you've got to play along.
- So, just like us, Whitman has crossed the river and watched the seagulls performing aerial acrobatics.
- If you're a fan of gorgeous descriptions of nature, you might want to linger on these lines.