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O Captain! My Captain! -- Walt Whitman

And rounding out the 'old favourites' theme...
(Poem #157) 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
This is one of the poems that I read and enjoyed as a child, but which lost
its appeal somewhat with age and familiarity. However, I recently came
across the following piece of background info, of which I was entirely
unaware - quoting from a note on the poem:

  Abraham Lincoln's assassination at Ford's Theater is too familiar a story
  for me to rehash here. In a nation numbed by death in the just-ended War,
  this death was the more deeply felt. Whitman felt a deep personal grief,
  and he shows it in another well-known poem 'When lilacs last at the
  dooryard bloomed'[1]. In [O Captain, my Captain], though, he captures the
  mass mood.  -- Bob Blair

  [1] <[broken link]>

Which epiphany should be sufficient commentary on the poem - for
Whitman-related stuff, see Poem #54


43 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Artion Pashollari said...

I can feel his pain and his loos in this poem. It is very deep and sharp. But let's not forget that at least this dead captain has brought his ship safe at port.

LANDL200 said...

I have to do this poem for english haha. I like it. I can see the mass loss
that everyone felt.

carmelita dizon said...

I was reading my son's 5th grader book, and I came across the comment on Abraham Lincoln's assasination that led to the writing of Walt Whitman's poem," O, Captain, My Captain." I was touched. I remember my high school teacher back in the Philippines (1974) reading it one day in our literature class. I thought it was very good. Now, with a better background why it was written gave deeper meaning to the words. I got hold of a copy of the poem and read it. It made me cry.
I feel the poet's very mixed-up feelings about the situation. What an irony! It was supposed to be a happy homecoming event but became very tragic because of the death of the captain - Abraham Lincoln.
I read it again, and again. It made me very emotional. I highly respect the life of our dear beloved president who made a difference during his time.I thank him and the many others who willingly sacrificed their lives so we can have the life and liberty we are enjoying here in America.

God Bless America!

Carmelita Dizon

The Morgan Family said...

I love this poem it is very sad. I am also doing it for english and although I do not live in America I too feel the great loss that everyone felt at the death of their 'captain'

Don Gearing said...


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this poem remind me my father, He always mentioned it. It's so idealistic, and imaginative too.

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Oh captain by walt witman Very Nice Poem.. i love it very much
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very nice poem. my captain looks like a man who have a big responsibilities.. very nice word.. :)

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