Walt Whitman (1819-1892) published "Captain! My Captain!" in 1865 as an elegy to the recently assasinated President Lincoln. The poem, often praised for its skillful conformity in meter and rhyme, depicted Lincoln as the captain of a ship having suffered the ravages of sea -- a metaphor appropriate to the leader of the union following the ravages of the Civil War. Whitman's most famous poems, the "Song of Myself" and "I Sing the Body Electric," were among the first to praise the human body, physical health, and sexuality by a male American writer. You may also recognize the poem from The Dead Poets Society, a film that starred Robin Williams as an eccentric English teacher at an all-boys school. [ Click to Order Whitman's Leaves of Grass (soft $) ]
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.
Whitman, Walt. 1900. Leaves of Grass.
Links of Interest:
The Poetry of Walt Whitman
This site discusses the life and works of the author of "Leaves of Grass." Includes bibliography, discussion forum, and ordering option.
The Walt Whitman Project
This site features a database holding images of Whitman's works in their original documentary forms, including reviews.
Walt Whitman: Bartleby Project
This site features all of the text from Whitman's Leaves of Grass. Great resource!