Walt Whitman was born in America in 1819, and passed away in 1892. He wrote the poem “O Captain My Captain ” in 1865 in memory of President Abraham Lincoln. It was included in his 1865 collection “Leaves of Grass” and became one of his most well-known pieces.
This poem features Whitman’s signature style, which combines standard English with lyrical symbolism and imagery. It expresses the sorrow of a great leader’s passing while simultaneously expressing hope and optimism.
The death of Lincoln profoundly affected Whitman, who was inspired to pen “O Captain My Captain ” as a show of sorrow and adoration. The poem has since gained notoriety as a classic American literature that encapsulates the sadness and optimism of the country’s past. It is a familiar figure at memorial services for deceased soldiers and other notable people.
O Captain My Captain
The poem features three quatrains, and each stanza uses a metaphor to compare Lincoln to the captain of a ship whose voyage has come to an end with his passing. Despite the poem’s depressing tone, it still conveys a message of hope for the future, demonstrating that America may continue to work to advance even after Lincoln’s passing.
The themes of loss, hope, and recollection are universal, a potent reminder of the fortitude, courage, and wisdom of those who guide us.
“O Captain! my Captain!” a Poem 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.
For more poem inspiration visit the Save Funeral Costs blog of funeral poems.