Affirmation: 1856 and 1956

At one time or another, every man or woman of conscience has raised their hands in the air or shaken their fists and cried in wonder at the whole of human suffering and strife. The poem “America” by Allen Ginsberg, and the poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” by Walt Whitman share the author’s vision of America in their time, and reflect America’s struggles and their personal struggles. Each author uses imagery and declaration to broadcast their view of the world and their concerns for the future.

Both poems talk about America and its place in the world, and the relationships with other countries. Whitman saw New York, and the growing industry as youthful and full of promise,

Come on, ships from the lower bay! Pass up or down, white-sail’d schooners, sloops, lighters!

Flaunt away, flags of all nations! Be duly lower’d at sunset!”

Ginsberg saw the same America trying to shake off Puritanism and find its place in a complicated world,

“Asia is rising against me”


“America you don’t really want to go to war.

America it’s them bad Russians”

Both poems discuss America and the authors place in it.

“America after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world” (Ginsberg).

In construction, each poem is written as the authors voice or the author’s thoughts presented to an unknown listener. Each poem is divided into stanzas of varying length, and each poem is written using short and long lines.

Both authors, Ginsberg and Whitman, were living through trying and challenging times. Each man concludes there is good in the world, but we still have much work to do, Whitman says,

“We fathom you not—we love you—there is perfection in you also”

Ginsberg is clear about the work that needs doing,

“I’d better get right down to the job.

It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts factories, I’m nearsighted and psychopathic anyway.

America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel”

Each author’s period in history caused men of conscience to question their beliefs and reaffirm their duty.

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