O Captain! My Captain!

Analysis of this famous poem written 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!          5
      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;   10
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,   15
          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;   20
    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 metaphoric poem written by Walt Whitman that speaks very highly of America’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. This elegy is a part of 4 poems that Walt Whitman wrote in memorial to his fallen hero.

In this poem, the captain is meant to represent Abraham Lincoln. The poem states that the captain has lead his ship through harsh conditions and still ended up arriving at the treasure or prize. This was meant to symbolize Abraham Lincoln leading the US during the tough times of the US civil war, abolishing slavery and keeping the union together after the civil war. These achievements are what earned the high respect from Walt Whitman.

Walt Whitman is so fond of Lincoln that he even calls him a father. It is such a high praise because almost no one would call a person they never met a father, and mean it. At the end of each stanza, Whitman reminds the reader that the captain, Abraham Lincoln, had not finished his journey and had perished. It symbolizes him getting assassinated and the bleeding drops of red are meant to portray the blood from when Lincoln was shot.

The poem also shows other people paying respects to Lincoln. An example would be “for you the flag is flung-for you the bugle trills.” This must have meant there were many others that appreciated Lincoln as much a Whitman did.

O Captain My Captain has a simple rhyme scheme. The first half of the first and third stanza consists of a couplet scheme, AABB. The first half of the second paragraph somewhat has a rhyme in couplets; bells, trills, crowding, turning. The second part of each stanza follows an ABCB rhyme scheme.

Overall I would say this poem is a very nice poem written by Whitman. It creates a happy and sad mood together because Whitman writes positives of what happened (such as Lincoln finding the prize or the people cheering for him) in the first half of each stanza but quickly reminds the reader that in fact Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated and will not be able to finish the journey.

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1 Comment
  1. Posted November 12, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    Bravo my friend that was spot on . To see into the mind of Walt Whitman with such kean insight is truly amazing. Keep up this very well written article,I am anxiously awaiting your next piece. Your Fan F J McCarthy.

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