Tuesday, April 21, 2015

from "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," Walt Whitman

It avails not, neither time or place—distance avails not;
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so  many generations hence;  
I project myself—also I return—I am with you, and know how it is.  
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt;  
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd;  
Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d;
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood, yet was hurried;  
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships, and the thick-stem’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.
I too many and many a time cross’d 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.  
I too saw the reflection of the summer sky in the water,  
Had my eyes dazzled by the shimmering track of beams,  
Look’d at the fine centrifugal spokes of light around the shape of my head in the sun-lit water,  
Look’d on the haze on the hills southward and southwestward,
Look’d on the vapor as it flew in fleeces tinged with violet,  
Look’d toward the lower bay to notice the arriving ships,  
Saw their approach, saw aboard those that were near me,  
Saw the white sails of schooners and sloops—saw the ships at anchor,  
The sailors at work in the rigging, or out astride the spars,
The round masts, the swinging motion of the hulls, the slender serpentine pennants,  
The large and small steamers in motion, the pilots in their pilot-houses,  
The white wake left by the passage, the quick tremulous whirl of the wheels,  
The flags of all nations, the falling of them at sun-set,  
The scallop-edged waves in the twilight, the ladled cups, the frolicsome crests and glistening,
The stretch afar growing dimmer and dimmer, the gray walls of the granite store-houses by the docks,  
On the river the shadowy group, the big steam-tug closely flank’d on each side by the barges—the hay-boat, the belated lighter,  
On the neighboring shore, the fires from the foundry chimneys burning high and glaringly into the night,  
Casting their flicker of black, contrasted with wild red and yellow light, over the tops of houses, and down into the clefts of streets.  
These, and all else, were to me the same as they are to you;
I project myself a moment to tell you—also I return.  
I loved well those cities;  
I loved well the stately and rapid river;  
The men and women I saw were all near to me;  
Others the same—others who look back on me, because I look’d forward to them;
(The time will come, though I stop here to-day and to-night.)  
What is it, then, between us?  
What is the count of the scores or hundreds of years between us?  
Whatever it is, it avails not—distance avails not, and place avails not.