‘O Captain! My Captain!’ by Walt Whitman

O Captain! My Captain!

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.

walt whitman
Poet Walt Whitman in his home in New Jersey in 1891. (Photo: Samuel Murray/Wikimedia Commons)

Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892) was one of the most influential writers of his time. Known as the father of free-verse, Whitman is considered the quintessential American poet, achieving this status after the publication of his American epic, Leaves of Grass. Much of his work has been cited in popular culture (Breaking Bad, Dead Poets’ Society, are two examples among many) and his legacy remains synonymous with American poetry.