About the Poet
Walt Whitman was born in 1819 in West Hills. He was a poet, journalist, etc. Walter is one of the most influential American poets whose works were very controversial at the time.
Walt Whitman was known as Father of Verse.
Whitesman left schooling at a very young age and started working, he worked as a teacher, journalist, etc. He also worked for printers. He edited a daily newspaper and also became an editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
Whitesman was also considered to be the first “poet of democracy”.
Whiteman’s few famous works are- Leaves of Grass, Manly Health and Training, Drum-Taps, Democratic Vistas, Franklin Evans, The Half-Breed, etc. His leaves of grass were first published in the history of American Literature. A large number of composers like John Adams, Ernst Bacon, Leonard Bernstein, Benjamin Britten, Rhoda Coghill, David Conte, Ronald Corp, George Crumb, Frederick Delius, Howard Hanson and many more have set his works to music. The members of white vanities celebrated ” Whiteman’s day” on his birthday.
Whitman died at the age of 72. His funeral was publicly celebrated.
About the Poem
The poem “O Captain! My Captain” by Walt Whitman was written in 1865. The poem has got historical or civil war background. The complete poem is a tribute to Abraham Lincoln. The poem has gained huge popularity. The poem is emphasizing the grief and sorrow of the sailor. The poem was first published in the Sequel to Drum-Taps. The complete poem is about the death of Abraham Lincoln, the president, and how much he admires him.
In the poem, the visual imagery is the death of the captain, the celebration, and the auditory imagery is the bells, rings, peeps who were there waiting eagerly to celebrate the victory.
At the very beginning, it looked like the sailor is having a normal conversation with his captain but then as the analysis went ahead we came to know that the poem was all about grief and sorrow. The poem was a tribute to a dead captain. Overall the title of the poem is quite an appt, as the complete poem revolves around the poem and the bravery or the victory. The has they escaped the danger and managed to reach the shore.
Settings of the Poem
The poem “O Captain! My captain” written by Walt Whitman was shown to be set up in a ship. In the poem, it was portrayed in a ship but for the writer or the poet it was more than anything, he was talking about America and the population of America who was waiting eagerly for the victory. It was the bravery of his dead captain or the president Abraham Lincoln for whom they could safely reach the shore.
The ship or the end of the dangerous journey symbolizes the end of the civil war. The poet refers to a free country or end of the war or a state in peace.
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Structure of the poem
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.
The poem doesn’t follow a particular rhyming scheme in the poem, it is a free verse. The poem “O Captain! My Captain” has got three stanzas in total each with eight verses. It is a Double Quatrine, a poem having eight lines in each stanza, both the first four and the last four lines are embedded together. The poem is an elegy.
Analysis Of The Poem
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.
In the very first stanza, the sailor informs out of joy that their ship has crossed every dangerous path and the path was almost to get completed. He says to the captain that “price we sought is won”. As the ship was near the port the sailor says about the bells and the crowd of the people exulting. And then suddenly he exclaims that his captain was fallen on the deck cold and death, all around bleeding drops of red.
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.
In the second stanza, the sailor request his captain to wake up and see how the crowd was rejoicing for his victory, how the flag was flung, the bouquets, and ribbon’s wreaths. He wanted his captain to wake up and see the eager faces of the people waiting for them. And then all of a sudden his tunes change, he feels sad and prays if it was a dream that his captain was lying 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.
In the last stanza, the sailor tries to examine his master for the very last time. He checks that his master’s lips were pale and still, there was no pulse, no will. The ship successfully reached the shore. The voyage was closed and stopped, all the people were happy, enjoying, the bell was rung for completing the fearful journey. He walked out mournfully, sad and leaving his Master’s body there on the deck, cold and dead.
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Literary Devices Used in the Poem
Alliteration refers to the use of two or more words that begin with the same sound in close proximity to one another.
- flag is flung
- safe and sound
the attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something non-human, or the representation of an abstract quality in human form.
- Exult, O Shores!
He compares in such a way it seems like the shores are a human being and they are going to celebrate the victory.
visually descriptive or figurative language, especially in a literary work.
- “cold and dead”
- “Lips are pale and still”
- “bleeding drops of red”
a punctuation mark (‘) used to indicate either possession
- “O, Captain! My Captain!”
the recurrence of similar-sounding consonants in close proximity, especially in prosody.
- “flag is flung.”
A metaphor is a figure of speech that, for rhetorical effect, directly refers to one thing by mentioning another.
the action of scanning a line of verse to determine its rhythm.
- The meter in the poem is iambic but there are huge inconsistencies. The poet has not followed any particular meter or tradition in the poem.
The Theme of the Poem
The theme of the poem ” O Captain! My captain” is :-
The poem by Walt Whitman is a tribute to the President or the captain of the ship Abraham Lincoln. The poet admires his captain for the victory they have won together. At the very beginning, the poem portrays the happy faces, as if the poet was talking to his captain but then suddenly the tunes change and we get to know that the captain is dead. He admires him a lot. Walter was in such a sock that it was impossible for him to get out of the shock of his master’s death. He wished if his master could wake up again to see how America’s population was waiting for them to celebrate, how they have hosted the flag, the bells, the rings, etc. He was happy but his grief was portrayed in the poem. The people were celebrating but he left the ship with all sorrow.
The poem “O Captain! My Captain” is a poem where they are celebrating the victory, the end of the civil war. They are happy that they successfully escaped the danger. The population of America was waiting eagerly as they were happy for the victory. They arranged many things to welcome the warriors like the bells, the rings, etc. They celebrate the victory for President Lincoln. But unfortunately, he was not present. Here comes sorrow that he gave up his life in the war, he was cold and dead.
In the poem “O Captain! My Captain” captain Abraham Lincoln died. He gave up his life in the civil war and so all the victory was for him. They successfully managed to get out of the danger and reach the shore but there was a loss of life. Everyone was busy celebrating but the poet was in grief and solitary. The most ironic part is that everyone was celebrating for the victory of the captain but unfortunately the captain was not present to see the triumph.
The poet Walter admires his captain Abraham Lincoln a lot and so that he breaks off and says “But O heart! heart! heart! … my Captain lies, / Fallen cold and dead.” He beautifully portrays the relation between victory and loss. He wished if his captain could wake up again to witness all the crowds and joy.