Thursday, May 24, 2007

O Captain! My Captain! by Walt Whitman

O Captain! My Captain!

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 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

This is, and is not, a sea poem. Everyone knows it was written in memory of Abraham Lincoln after his murder, but it uses nautical imagery that even people today with no seafaring experience find powerful. I guess that's why I've found so much enjoyment in the Aubrey-Maturin books. There's something universal about the image of a ship -- an enclosed community that works hard together through the most trying of times towards a common goal. It can be a metaphor for any number of communities -- family, country, church, neighborhood, school, etc.

1 comment:

  1. BTW, that's Admiral Lord Nelson in the lower painting for those of you not quite so obsessed with the sea as Karen and I ;) R (Mom)