Wednesday, August 05, 2009


(because I'll be there in a few days)

I was asking for something specific and perfect for my city,

Whereupon lo! upsprang the aboriginal name.

Now I see what there is in a name, a word, liquid, sane,
unruly, musical, self-sufficient,
I see that the word of my city is that word from of old,
Because I see that word nested in nests of water-bays,
Rich, hemm'd thick all around with sailships and
steamships, an island sixteen miles long, solid-founded,
Numberless crowded streets, high growths of iron, slender,
strong, light, splendidly uprising toward clear skies,
Tides swift and ample, well-loved by me, toward sundown,
The flowing sea-currents, the little islands, larger adjoining
islands, the heights, the villas,
The countless masts, the white shore-steamers, the lighters,
the ferry-boats, the black sea-steamers well-model'd,
The down-town streets, the jobbers' houses of business, the
houses of business of the ship-merchants and money-
brokers, the river-streets,
Immigrants arriving, fifteen or twenty thousand in a week,
The carts hauling goods, the manly race of drivers of horses,
the brown-faced sailors,
The summer air, the bright sun shining, and the sailing
clouds aloft,
The winter snows, the sleigh-bells, the broken ice in the
river, passing along up or down with the flood-tide or
The mechanics of the city, the masters, well-form'd,
beautiful-faced, looking you straight in the eyes,
Trottoirs throng'd, vehicles, Broadway, the women, the
shops and shows,
A million people--manners free and superb--open voices--
hospitality--the most courageous and friendly young
City of hurried and sparkling waters! city of spires and masts!
City nested in bays! my city!

by Walt Whitman

Link to American Experience: Walt Whitman

1 comment:

  1. I think this poem is used in the PBS series on New York, which is good prep (or follow-up) for your trip by the way.

    Also, the Museum of the City of New York has an exhibit (and book) called Manahatta, about the original island from an ecological point of view, and how it's changed in 400 years. They also have an exhibit about the Dutch influence on the island. That museum is not far from the Metropolitan, at 105th and Fifth. But I think the Manahatta Project has a website, which may do if you don't have time for all those museums.

    Alas, much of Whitman's Manahatta is no longer! But you can get a glimpse of it at the South Street Seaport. Which has a museum of its own, too, of course. And there's an eco-cruise from it towards all those islands he mentions, with the history of all their abandoned buildings, on Sunday nights. Ah, so many museums, so few days! Have fun!