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O Captain, My Captain

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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.

“O Captain! My Captain!” is a poem written by Walt Whitman in 1865. It is an elegy or mourning poem, written to honor Abraham Lincoln. The poem is an extended metaphor with Lincoln serving as the captain of a ship, symbolizing the United States.

The poem was featured prominently in Dead Poets Society, the film that featured Robin Williams‘ Oscar-winning portrayal of John Keating, a teacher at a stuffy boys-prep school. The students show their support for Keating at the end of the film by standing on their desks and reciting the poem, in defiance of the school’s headmaster’s decision to fire their beloved teacher. The poem has been featured in several anthologies, including Whitman’s Sequel to Drum-Taps and later editions of Leaves of Grass. Comedic legend Williams passed away yesterday at the age of 63.

These volumes and the film are available for borrowing at the Library. Falvey also has other films featuring Williams.

 

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Last Modified: August 12, 2014