By Walt Whitman
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done, The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won, The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting, While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring; But O heart! heart! heart! O the bleeding drops of red, Where on the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead. O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells; Rise up- for you the flag is flung- for you the bugle trills, For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths- for you the shores a-crowding, For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning; Here Captain! dear father! This arm beneath your head! It is some dream that on the deck, You’ve fallen cold and dead. My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still, My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will, The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done, From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won; Exult O shores, and ring O bells! But I with mournful tread, Walk the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead.
“O Captain, My Captain” is a poem by Walt Whitman, written in 1865 as a tribute to President Abraham Lincoln, who had recently been assassinated. The poem has a sombre and mournful tone, reflecting the national mood after Lincoln’s death.
The poem is structured in three stanzas, each with a similar structure and repeated refrain. The first stanza describes the scene of a ship returning to port after a dangerous journey, with the captain dead on the deck. The second stanza addresses the captain directly, expressing grief at his loss and admiration for his leadership. The third stanza switches to a more hopeful tone, celebrating the end of the Civil War and the Union’s victory.
The poem is filled with imagery that emphasizes the sense of loss and mourning. The ship represents the nation, while the captain represents Lincoln, who guided the nation through the difficult and dangerous journey of the Civil War. The repeated refrain of “O Captain, my Captain” reinforces the emotional connection between the speaker and the deceased leader.
Overall, “O Captain, My Captain” is a powerful elegy that captures the grief and sadness felt by many Americans after Lincoln’s death. Its combination of vivid imagery and emotional language has made it one of Whitman’s most enduring and well-known poems.
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