Walt Whitman was certainly a poet of the people! Beal’s lifeless city view (discussed by Haw) was an urban self-image, but lifeless, without evidence of or desire to include workers, materials, or ugliness. On the other hand, Whitman’s view of the river and its surroundings include the bustling of the people. The place, the view, and the river, all belong to the people, people now, and “so many hundred years hence.” I enjoyed, too, the way Whitman sees beauty and significance in just about everything, for he even finds the ordinary or ugly worthy of inclusion. For example, in #3 he refers to the floating and glistening seagulls, then moves on to the schooners and steamers, including the flags they carry. Surprisingly, even the “fires from the foundry chimneys” are treated as worthy of attention, “casting their flicker of black contrasted with wild red and yellow light over the tops of houses, and down into the clefts of streets.” Whitman owns it! And he seems to proclaim that it is all good, it is all parts of the whole, and available to all, past, present, and future.
Susan McClung, Tampa