O Captain! My Captain! – By Walt Whitman

O Captain! My Captain!

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.

– Walt Whitman

Written by Walt Whitman in the year 1865, this poem mourns the death of their President- Abraham Lincoln. On April 15, 1865, The President was assassinated in a local theatre. The country fell apart and was in utter shock. This poem mirrors the emotional torment of the nation at the time.

In the poem, President Lincoln is referred to as ‘Captain’ and also ‘Father’. The country is referred to as a ship that has completed its journey. It indicates the successful end of The Civil War and the abolition of slavery. The poet also talks about the grim state of the nation caused by the countless lives lost during the war. He later illustrates the celebrations after the war and the end of slavery. Even in this victorious phase in the country’s history, the poet does not want to acknowledge the truth of The President’s death. He still thinks it’s all a dream. In the next stanza, he grasps the situation and talks about the dead President, his pale lips and his arm devoid of any pulse. He tells us that the country is safe and far from another war and the people are in high spirits. But he still grieves The President’s demise.

This poem connected to the grieving public and instantly became a classic. Later added to Whitman’s collection of poems ‘Leaves of grass’ and imbibed into various plays, movies and shows this poem still stands the test of time. Whitman effortlessly captures the essence of the loss of a great leader and a nation in mourning.

Sources: poetry foundationWikipedia

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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