Tuesday Poem – O Captain! My Captain! by Walt Whitman

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

The above poem is from BookXX11. Memories Of President Lincoln in Leaves Of Grass by Walt Whitman. The poem is a mourning poem for Abraham Lincoln.This poem took on a new life after its association with Robin Williams in the movie, Dead Poet’s Society (1989)  which tells how an English teacher inspires his students through his teaching of poetry. After Robin William’s death a number of people were videoed leaping onto desks and proclaiming the poem or words from it. See Jimmy Fallon here

Right until the end of his life, Whitman worked on the collection Leaves of Grass starting from when he first self-published it in 1855 as a collection of 12 poems until it had gone through seven editions and expanded to some 300 poems. He is one of the most influential American poets,and is often referred to as “the father of the free verse.”
He lived though times which saw the presidency  of Lincoln, slavery and the Civil War. For an excellent bio of Walt Whitman go here.
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I was reintroduced to Walt Whitman’s poetry recently when a friend recited one of the poet’s many inscription poems, which form a preface to Leaves of Grass. See below. it was certainly a gift. Thank you friend.
The short poem below embodies a lot of Whitman’s philosophy…his belief in love; in nature, family and people and his egalitarianism.
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To a Certain Cantatrice

Here, take this gift,
I was reserving it for some hero, speaker, or general,
One who should serve the good old cause, the great idea, the
progress and freedom of the race,
Some brave confronter of despots, some daring rebel;
But I see that what I was reserving belongs to you just as much as to any.

And now please go to Tuesday Poem here where Andrew Bell is this week’s editor with a poem by Helen Rickerby which he describes as bold and fresh.

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