Walt Whitman’ s poem, O Captain My Captain; A look at the death of one of America’s hero
A great leader is the one who drives the motivation on their follower’s heart. The civil war was one of the bloodiest and worst wars in the history of the world, because it is not defined by the number of deaths, but because family members were fighting each other just because they believed in different things. The assassination of the leader who won the civil war Abraham Lincoln impacted many people that followed him. This short poem by Walt Whitman is dedicated to the death of one of the greatest leaders that America had. Many readers can identify themselves with this poem, because everyone has suffered the death of a close person or a person who was admired.
Walt Whitman came from a modest family and liked and wrote poetry most of his life, but he was not as popular until the civil war era. Whitman most famous poem “O Captain my Captain” was part of his influence in the Civil War. “In later 1862, Whitman traveled to Fredericksburg to search for his brother George, who fought for the Union and was being treated there for a wound he suffered. Whitman moved to Washington, D.C. the next year and found part-time work in the paymaster’s office, spending much of the rest of his time visiting wounded soldiers” (Editors, 2016). Whitman honors this poem to his former president, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln lead the union during the American Civil War. The fight between the north and the south for the freedom of slaves for economic reasons lead to the hatred of many on president Lincoln, leading him to his death.
Everything that is great, must come to an end. The exciting yet controversial first stanza starts with joy, as to people cheering and jumping of excitement for winning a battle or war. Happy and excited because after a long time they get to return home. The ships voyage is compared to the whole time being at war, also calling the ship “the vessel grim and daring:” its explaining that they came back strong, and powerful. Then it transitions to the realization from the sailors of the ship that their captain has die right after “But O heart! heart! heart!” which emphasizes the poet’s grief at the death of his captain. Cries and tears, were on the deck, where the captain is “Fallen cold and dead.” The immediate change of mood on the poem it’s what makes it stunning.
Winning feels great when it has been accomplished in a group. The people who has followed the Captain Abraham on this long journey, is cheering and chanting for their accomplishment. Yet they don’t know that the captain has died. The cries of those who know, specially of Whitman, telling the dead to stand up and look at what he has done for many of them, “The poet refers to the fallen captain as “father,” representing his deep respect for president Lincoln and Lincoln’s role as father of the Union” (Lorcher, 2015); The author compares their Captain to their Father to give the whole poem more of a personal and deeper way of understanding how it feels the death of the captain. The melancholic mood that the author shows after doing a strong fight and winning, not being able to see the outcome of the sweat, blood and lives taken from his people, pay off.
Getting through the hardships of life is what makes a person or a country grow. The understanding that Whitman gives in this last stanza is that even though something might hurt, life keeps on going. “But I with mournful tread, Walk the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead.” Hope is given by this great poet with this poem. For every stanza, the last sentence was “fallen cold and dead” implying a repetition. Also, the whole poem does not have an accurate rhyming scheme, but it did have a little of a regular AB BC scheme.
Remembering those who die with you, are those who shall always be honored. The poem was a full metaphor of the death of the president Abraham Lincoln. Being sad and not being able to do anything for the live of that one person who did everything for you, makes your body cry and your soul cringe. Not only Whitman felt this way towards Abraham Lincoln, but also many of the citizens felt with their relatives or people that they supported. The whole country was going through a rough time during and after the war, and with this poem there was a symbol of hope. Even though a battle was won, life kept on being hard, and nothing can be explained better the way this poem explain it.
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