2BackgroundO Captain, My Captain" by Walt Whitman is an elegy, as it was written to honor the death of a person. The poem is a symbolism poem resembling president Abraham Lincoln after his assasination.Walt Whitman’s literary style was experimental, he expressed nature, and self that has since been described as the first expression of a distinctly American voice.During the Civil War Whitman moved to Washington, D.C., where he served as a civil servant and volunteer nurse. There he published the poetry collections Drum Taps and Sequel to Drum Taps in 1865, the latter containing his famous elegies for Abraham Lincoln, "Where Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" and "O Captain! My Captain!"
3IO captain! my captain! our fearful trip is done; The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won; The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting, While follow eyes the stead 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.
4IIO 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 ribboned wreaths, for you the shores a-crowding: For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning. O captain! dear father! This arm beneath your head; It is some dream that on the deck You've fallen cold and dead.
5IIIMy 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 anchored safe and sound, its voyage closed and done: From fearful trip the victorship comes in with object won! Exult, O shores! and ring, O bells! But I, with silent tread, Walk the spot my captain lies Fallen cold and dead
6Historical Background This poem is about America's acknowledgement of Abraham Lincoln as the leader of their country, who held the nation together through the worst crisis in its history. He led the country to victory, and won the civil war, and ended the institution of slavery. He is viewed, not only in the poet's eyes, but in the eyes of the nation, America as the savior of American union and the "Great Emancipator." Soon after the civil war ended, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.O Captain! My Captain’ is a moving poem in which Whitman expresses his profound sense of grief at a tragic end of Abraham Lincoln, one of the greatest presidents of the United States of America, who fought a war (the American Civil War) against the Southern States to give the slaves freedom and human dignity. The war was won, the slaves were freed, but Lincoln, soon after his election as president for a second term, fell a victim to an assassin’s bullet.
7SummaryIn "O Captain, My Captain", Whitman uses line length and word choice to represent a wide range of emotions from joy to sorrow.The leader is being conceived as the brave captain of a ship who falls dead on the deck just when the journey is over and the victory is won. Whitman delivers the message to the captain and declares that their fearful and dangerous trip is done. Their ship had withstood every destructive encounter and their prized reward that they longed for is won. Their weary ship is drawing near the sea-port, the church bells are ringing to celebrate a victory and the people are rejoicing. Yet in the midst the celebration, he sees that within the grim and the daring vessel, his heart would spill profusely with drops of blood of immeasurable sadness to see his captain lying cold and dead.The poem begins with the narrator feeling overjoyed because the "fearful trip is done,“. Examples of these choice words are prize, won, bells, people all exulting. These words give the reader a feeling of excitement and accomplishment.Soon, however, the mood swings from enthusiasm to sorrow once the narrator realizes that the Captain is dead. Whitman makes the change from joy to sorrow seamlessly, a skill that only few possess. As the mood swings, Whitman's word choice changes accordingly.
8Whitman pleads desperately to the captain to get up from his bed and see that the people are flying the flag just for him. The people are blowing their trumpets and bugles and are waiting to present him with bunches of flowers and decorated garlands to honour him-the victor. The seashores are swaying with crowds of cheering people. All the faces of the people on the shore are eager to see the captain addressing them from the deck. Yet the captain, a father to all people of the nation slept still and cold with his arm beneath his head. It is like an unbelievable bad dream that the leader is dead at the moment of victory.Whitman uses line length and line repetition to set the tone of the poem, and also to make the reader see the true meaning. The first line of each of the three sections begins with Captain, and the section ends with "fallen cold and dead".The purpose of Whitman beginning each section with Captain is to remind the reader that the focus remains on the Captain and nothing else, while the purpose of placing "fallen cold and dead" at the end of each section is to, at first, to inform the reader of what is to come, while later it's purpose is simply to remind the reader of the tragedy.
9the captain does not answer still the captain does not answer still. His lips are extremely pale and not moving. Whitman says that his father does not feel his arm, and has neither pulse nor movement. The ship has finally reached the shore. It has dropped its anchor safe and sound. The long tiring voyage is closed and done. The triumph for the achievement is worth the effort. Whitman encourages the people on the shores to continue rejoicing and ring those bells as loud as possible. For him he will walk the heavy steps with deep sadness to the deck where his captain lies absolutely cold and dead.Whitman also refers to Lincoln as a father, because he is the father of his nation. The speaker of the poem does not want to believe that the captain is dead, by saying, "My Captain does not answer his lips pale and still, My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will." But then, sadly, he realizes that the captain will not come back.
10Use of imageryThe poet uses 3 of the five senses to evoke certain reactions in the reader. The reader can see the ship and the cold dead captain lying on the deck.At first, the victor ship is a joyous thing, but then seeing the captain dead, the poem suddenly turns sad and sorrowful.The reader can hear the nation calling for the captain. But the captain cannot hear the nation. The reader can feel the dead body of the captain, holding him in their own arms. As it says O captain! Dear father! This arm beneath your head; overall, this gives the reader a dramatic reaction, in a sad, shocking kind of way.
11The poet is trying to communicate with the reader his acknowledgement and love for Abraham Lincoln, and his grief of his death. Walt Whitman speaks not only for himself, but for his whole nation America as Abraham Lincoln is the savior of their nation, and they embrace him as their hero.This poem has a strong significance in the movie, "Dead Poets Society".
12Rhyming Scheme The poem is divided into three sections. Each section has got 2 paragraphs.Each paragraph has four lines each. The first paragraph of each section, has a rhyming scheme of a-b, a-b.The second paragraph of each section, has a rhyming scheme of a-c, b-d. This gives the poem an overall effect of a melodic character.In the three sections, the lines of the first paragraph are longer than the lines on the second paragraph. The first paragraph is the question, and the second paragraph is the answer.