Written in 1865 the poem was a patriotic encouragement by Walt Whitman to ask for people to fight for what was right so that the young country didn’t split in half. The poem was written as an honor for President Lincoln. His heart broke because he wanted slavery to end but also hated seeing Americans fighting against each other.
The beginning poem discusses the life and glory of the captain (President Lincoln) and he moves to the end in agony over the assignation of the president only because the hearts of the people still hurt. He compares the nation to a ship that was at sea but is not safe and anchored into the bay. Walt desires to see people celebrate the success in history.
Walt Whitman was a romantic character and saw President Lincoln as that leader which came from the log hut and rural countryside to put the nation on the right track. To Walt it was the simply man that had the most honesty in politics. President Lincoln not only had to convince others of the rightness of his action he also had to work through them himself. That was not an easy task at that time in history.
O 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 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 ribboned 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 anchored 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.