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Whitman loved to take endless strolls down streets like Broadway in New York and look for inspiration for his writing. Here, I think he is speaking of such a day. He uses words like hurrying, whirls and shuffling that lead me to believe he is speaking of how busy the New York streets are. There is so much vitality in the city and every person and every thing has its own story. This poem is so descriptive, it is easy to imagine you are walking right along with Whitman.

The last two lines, I feel, sum up the poem…I think Whitman is saying that nothing compares to New York.

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What hurrying human tides, or day or night!
What passions, winnings, losses, ardors, swim thy waters!
What whirls of evil, bliss and sorrow, stem thee!
What curious questioning glances glints of love!
Leer, envy, scorn, contempt, hope, aspiration!
Thou portal thou arena thou of the myriad long-drawn lines
and groups!
(Could but thy flagstones, curbs, fa├žades, tell their inimitable
tales;
Thy windows rich, and huge hotels thy side-walks wide;)
Thou of the endless sliding, mincing, shuffling feet!
Thou, like the parti-colored world itself like infinite, teeming,
mocking life!
Thou visord, vast, unspeakable show and lesson!