Many people know the historic poem, “Oh Captain! My Captain!”, but have we ever stopped and thought about the deeper meaning and the story it tells?
“Oh Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman, is one of the most famous tributes to Abraham Lincoln in the world, the Anaphora and extended metaphor,
along with the research found show why Whitman wrote what he did and aid the comprehension of the poem
Walt Whitman was born in May 1819 and lived until May 1892. He was a lifelong journalist and even published his own paper, The Long-Islander.
He became a well-known poet after Leaves of Grass and A Song to Myself. Today is known as one of the greatest American Poets.
Oh Captain! My Captain! Was written in 1865 about Abraham Lincolns’ assassination. It first appeared in New York’s Sunday Press and the pamphlet “Sequel to Drum Taps”.
Walt was a great admirer of Lincoln and even exchanged coordinal bows with him several times. Lincolns’ death shocked the nation and this was Whitman’s way of paying his gratitude.
The poem has been reused hundreds of time to commemorate Lincoln’s death and is still used for that purpose today.
Oh Captain! My Captain! Uses many poetic elements to add more meaning to the poem.
The anaphora of “Oh Captain! My Captain!” and “Fallen cold and dead” show Whitman’s respect for Lincoln and his mourning over his death.
As Whitman repeats “Oh Captain! My Captain!” he is trying to drive the point home that he looked up and admired Lincoln both as a leader and a person.
he repetition of “Fallen cold and dead” shows Whitman’s shock and dismay about the loss of Lincoln.
According to Poets.org Whitman was a great fan of Lincoln, this helps the reader understand why Whitman wrote such a powerful poem about Lincoln and how Whitman was feeling during this time.
Whitman used anaphora to show that he was in shock over Lincoln’s death, similar to how people repeat a statement when they are in shock, to let it “sink in”.
The whole world was sad but Whitman seemed be unusually mournful because he lost his idol and someone he looked up too.
Another poetic element Whitman uses is the Metaphor of Abraham Lincoln being the captain, the Civil War as the voyage and the United States as the ship.
When Whitman says, “our fearful trip is done; The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won”, he is saying that
the Civil war is over and now that America had taken every beating, freedom has won and Lincoln can rest in peace.
The information I found on Whitman added more depth and helped clarify the metaphor and poem.
According to pbs.org Whitman was 42 when the civil war started, and as a journalist and hospital volunteer he knew the horrors that the war caused.
Because Whitman volunteered in hospitals he knew that America was worn out and “weather’d every rack” and he would want to put this in his poem because helping the injured was so impactful on his life, and thus impactful on his poetry.
The Anaphora and extended Metaphor in “Oh Captain! My Captain!” add more depth and comprehension to the poem
The research on Whitman’s life also add more depth to these poetic elements and show the reader what impacted Whitman and made him write what he did.