O Captain! My Captain! (By Walt Whitman)
Summary of the Poem
Walt Whitman wrote two great elegies—”O Captain! My Captain!” and “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed” Both these poems were inspired by the death of Abraham Lincoln, the sixteen President of the U.S.A. Both these elegies are deeply stirring because the grief depicted therein is profound and genuine. Whiteman had great admiration for Lincoln. The assassination of Lincoln was naturally a cause for intense. grief.
“O Captain! My Captain!” describes Lincoln as a great and beloved Captain, who after steering the vessel the American nation through storm and stress to great victory and glory and cold on the deck. In the stanza Walt Whitman describes beautifully the greatness of Lincoln’s achievement, the colossal nature of the danger that surrounded him the lasting loyalty that he inspired in the hearts of the people.
In the second stanza, Walt Whitman’s grief gains momentum. In an ecstasy of lament the poet urges the Captain to get up and to “rise up and hear the bells.” Now the Captain so far used in the poem in replaced by a more intimate and affectionate title ‘dear father ‘Again, there is an expression of the sad irony of life in the fast that the ‘swaying mass’ on the shores their eager faces turning are there to greet him who lies cold and dead on the ship.
In the third stanza the personal note become more intense. Whiteman writes “My Captain does not answer his lips are pale and stiff. My father does not feel my arm.” Here the poet once again sustains the central idea that Lincoln led the through the blackest hour winning laurels. He preserved the Union though he himself became an offering at the altar of the nation. There is a mingling of rejoicing and exultation on the hand and heavy sorrow on the other hand in this poem.
Explanations of the poem
O Captain!…………… grim and daring.
Reference to the Context- These lines have been taken from the poem. ‘Q Captain! My Captain!’ composed by Walt Whitman. The poet describes the great joy after joy after success and victory in the Civil War of America. The Southern States, who fought against the abolition of slavery were defeated.
Explanation- The poet calls the Present Abraham Lincoln the captain of the ship. The difficult voyage is over. They have won the war and achieved their object. Their ship has passed every obstacle. The Government has solved every difficulty. They have achieved their aim. Slavery have achieved their aim. Slavery has been abolished. Peace has been achieved. The balls are ringing in the church. They are celebrating the victory. Their is great rejoicing. The Government has proved to be firm and courageous. The people are looking with admiration at the Government.
But O heart! heart! heart!………….Cold and dead.
Reference to the context- These lines have been taken from the poem ‘O Captain! My Captain!’ composed by Walt Whitman. The poet expresses grief over the death of Abraham Lincoln, who has steered the ship of America as a captain through rough waters of the Civil War, successfully and gained victory for his people. But how sad that he is assassinated soon after victory!
Explanation- These scene changes. The President has been assassinated. The poet looks at him. He cries in sorrow. There are drops of blood. The Captain is lying on the floor of the ship. The President is lying on his post of duty. His body is cold and lifeless. He is dead.
O Captain!……… eager faces turning.
Reference to the Context— These lines have been taken from the poem ‘O Captain! My Captain!’ composed by Walt Whitman. Here the poet describes the great welcome that is waiting for the President. He requests the President to rise up and see all these things. The people are impatient to welcome him.
Explanation- The poet tries to awaken the dead President. He tells him what he sees. The Church bells are ringing. The flag has been unfurled. The bugle is sounding. All these things have been done to welcome him and honour him. There is a very large crowd of people. They have brought bunches and garlands of flowers. They wish to present these things to the President. The poet calls upon the President to get up and see all these. The crowd is very eager to see him. In impatience the whole crowd moves this way and that. They are eagerly looking for him in all directions. They are calling for him.
Here, Captain! ……………. cold and dead.
Reference to the, Context- These lines have been taken from the poem O Captain! My Captain!’ composed by Walt Whitman. The poet believes that the President is alive and tries to support him up. He does not admit that he is really dead.
Explanation- These poet requests the President to get up and see all things. Now he helps him to get up. He puts his own hand under the head of the President. He tries to support him up. He says that the President is not dead. It is only a dream that he has died. It is not a true fact. The President is not dead and should get up.
My Captain does………….comes in with object won.
Reference to the Context- These lines have been taken from the poem ‘O Captain! My Captain! composed by Walt Whitman. The poet at last finds that the President is dead in the hour of victory. He has no sings of life in his body.
Explanation- The poet placed his hand under the President’s head. The President did not move. So the poet admits that he is dead. There is no reply from the President. His lips are white and bloodless. They do not move. There is no sign of life in him. There is no response to the poet’s hand. The President’s pulse is not beating. He does not show any desire to act. The ship is lying at anchor. The Government has no danger. It has achieved success. It undertook a dangerous task. That work has been completed.
Exult O shores!………………Fallen cold and dead.
Reference to the Context- These lines have been taken from the poem ‘O Captain! My Captain!’ composed by Walt Whitman. The poet is now certain that the President is dead. He will mourn for while the people are celebrating the victory with joy.
Explanation— The poet allows everybody to rejoice. Let them be happy. Let them ring the bell of the church with joy. But he will not rejoice. He will walk about on the deck full of sorrow and lamentation. His caption is lying dead and lifeless. He will live in the country. But he will not rejoice at the victory. He will lament for the President.
English Literature— Important links
- “Background, Casually” -Line by Line Explanation (Stanza 1 to 7)
- “Background Casually” Line by Line Explanation (Stanza 8 to 15)
- GITANJALI Poem 11 (By Rabindranath Tagore)- Introduction & Summary
- Gitanjali (Poem 11)- Stanza wise Explanation & Analysis
- Baugmaree (By Toru Dutt)- Introduction, Summary, Analysis & Explanation
- Keats as a Writer of Odes- Characteristics & Structure of his Ode
- Ode to a Nightingale- Stanza-wise Explanation & Analysis
- Tintern Abbey- Line by Line Explanation (1 to 10 Context Stanza-wise)
- Tintern Abbey Stanza-wise Explanation (11 to 16 Context)
- “PARADISE LOST” as an Epic- By John Milton
- “The Canonization” by John Donne- Summary & Line by line Explanation
- “The Flute player of Brindaban”- Summary, Analysis & Explanation
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