Whitman the… psychiatrist?

Throughout his history, Whitman strived to appear to be identifiable to everyone. His personalized goal seemed to be to be relatable to the laborer, the worker, the young man, the woman, the sailor, the saint, the sinner, the recluse, the naturalist, and the list goes on. He is the the poet of many things, perhaps all things. Since I first began studying Whitman I have known his “multitudes” and I have seen his countless identities. However, tonight while reading “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” I noted a different type of Whitman: Whitman the psychiatrist, the mentor, the older brother figure.

Doesn't he just look like someone you should be venting to?

Paralleling the idea of crisis and recovery that we briefly touched on in class on Tuesday, I notice a version of Whitman that attempts to console his reader, to reassure his reader that what he or she is experiencing is normal and that others have experienced it before and survived it before. Whitman seems to attempt a relation to the reader both in good times and in bad. Whitman “…loved well those cities, loved well the stately and rapid river…” and he also “knew what it was to be evil”. He questions the reader asking, “What is it then between us?/ What is the count of the scores or hundred of years/ between us?” The question is never answered but “Whatever it is, it avails not…”.

Whitman offers his reassurance to his reader, whoever he or she may be, stating that, “It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall,/ The dark threw its patches down upon me also”. This particular line really reinforces the concept of crisis and recovery that was brought up in class. In this line, Whitman appears to be comforting his reader, explaining to he or she that hard times are encountered by everyone and that hard times have been survived before and will be survived again.

Whitman is not always as relatable as he tries to be but in “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” he does a fantastic job of offering a form of escapism and hope to a less-than-invincible reader.

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2 Responses to Whitman the… psychiatrist?

  1. Anton Vander Zee says:

    Robert Creeley notes a very similar, reassuring sense at the end of his own reading of “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” which we will listen to in class.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I agree. This is I feel this could in fact fall into the “Wound Dresser” Whitman category. We know that he tended to many physical wounds of the soldiers during the civil war, and we see in other poems his attempts to heal the political and national wounds of a country caving in on itself; so it becomes easy for me to imagine Whitman attempting to heal human nature.

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