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O captain My Captain Questions and Answer 10/15

O captain My Captain Questions and Answer

O captain My Captain Questions and Answer

 

Q.1. Discuss “O Captain! My Captain!” as an elegy ?

Ans. An elegy is a poem of mourning. Most elegies are about someone who has died. Some elegies mourn a way of life that is gone forever. “O Captain! My Captain!” mourns the tragic death of President Abraham Lincoln. 

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Civil War. The first lines of the poem serve to begin which the rest of the poem builds. A metaphor is simply a figure of speech in which one thing is substituted for another, and a controlling metaphor is a metaphor that impacts, controls, or unifies the entire poem. In this poem, the “Captain” is a substitute for Abraham Lincoln, and the “ship” is the United States of America. “The fearful trip” is the Civil War, which had ended just prior to Lincoln’s assassination. Thus the ship is returning home to cheering crowds having won “the prize” of victory, just as the Union, led by Lincoln, had returned victorious from the Civil War. The utterance “0 Captain! my Captain” is particularly interesting in this light. In one sense the speaker is addressing his Captain directly, but in another respect he seems to be speaking to himself about his Captain. The repetition helps to assert the uncertainty he feels at the Captain’s loss.

 

somehow fallen dead after the battle. More importantly, the repetition “heart! heart! heart!” communicates the speaker of the. poem’s dismay and horror at realizing that his Captain has died. The poem is then as much about the “I” of the poem and how he comes to terms with his grief, how he processes this information, as it is about the central figure of the Captain. The “bleeding drops of red” are both the Captain’s bleeding wounds and the speakers wounded heart. Finally, these lines function as a broken heroic couplet, a two-line rhymed verse that originated in heroic epic poetry and is usually, as is the case with these lines, written in iambic pentameter. The broken lines are called hemistiches and are commonly used, as they are here, to the underlying rhythm of the poem and to suggest emotional upheaval. In this pivotal second stanza, the speaker of the poem entreats his Captain to “Rise up and hear the bells.” In essence the speaker laments that his Captain, having led his crew bravely to victory, will not receive the fanfare that is his just due. At the same time Whitman blends two distinct scenes: one in which crowds gather to receive and celebrate the Captain (Lincoln) upon his return from military victory; and the second in which the bells of the second stanza are presumably the bells rung in celebration of military victory; however, knowing the great Captain and leader has died the bells might also symbolize funeral bells tolled in mourning. Similarly, the “flag,” is flown in honor of the Captain both as a symbol of rejoicing and victory and as a symbol of lamentation-as in the tradition of flying the American flag at halfmast when a respected American dies. The bugle, a quintessentially military musical instrument, alludes to both military victory and to “Taps,” the requiem traditionally played at funerals of fallen soldiers. Bouquets and wreathes are also common to both celebratory receptions and funerals. Finally, the throngs of people become symbolic as well. Not only are they representative of the people who welcomed and rejoiced at the Union’s victory in the Civil War, but they represent the throngs of people who gathered across the nation to mournfully view Lincoln’s coffin as it was taken by train from Washington, D.C., to Springfield, Illinois. The crowds remind the reader that the speaker of the poem is not alone in lamenting his Captain’s death, but rather shares this experience with the masses. In this manner the poem is in keeping with Whitman’s experience. While he himself had a powerful personal reaction to the news of Lincoln’s death, Lincoln was the Captain and fatherfigure of an entire nation and so the poet’s grief, while central to the poem, is shared by the rest of the country.

In the next group of lines, the speaker of the poem again entreats Captain to “hear.” In this case he may be referring to the bells of the first stanza, or perhaps to himself, his pleas. More importantly, the speaker for the first time calls his Captain “father.” In this manner, Whitman expands the metaphor for Lincoln beyond the more limited scope of a military leader of men into a father figure, one whose wisdom and teachings led his children into adulthood. The poem celebrates Lincoln as more than simply a great military leader who led the Union to victory during the Civil War and attaches to him a broader significance as the father of this new, postslavery country.

In Lines 15-16 the speaker asserts that this must all be a bad dream. Here the poem captures the speaker’s denial; the emotional impact of Lincoln’s almost impossible for the speaker to accept. The refrain “fallen cold and dead,” is slightly altered in this stanza in that it is apparently addressed to the Captain. The effect is to again reinforce the demise has made speaker’s difficulty in coming to terms with his Captain’s death; even his Captain is dead, the speaker continues to speak to him as though though he faces were alive. The speaker of the poem, no longer able to hold out hope, up to the reality of his Captain’s death. The details and images evoked in these lines all serve to reiterate that the Captain is deceased: his pallid lips, lack of a pulse, and lack of will. Unlike me two previous stanzas, the speaker in no way addresses his Captain directly but speaks of him entirely in the thirdperson. 

Having finally faced up to his Captain’s his attention back to the recent victory. Lines 19-24 suggest again the internal division suffered by the speaker of the poem. Having accepted that his Captain is indeed dead it would seem he can now return his attention to the military victory. After all, one could surely argue that the plight of an entire nation of people far outweighs the fate of a single man. Nevertheless, the speaker of the poem chooses the individual over the larger. nation. While “Exult O shores, and ring. O bells” is explicitly a call for rejoicing, the speaker himself will not celebrate but will walk “with mournful tread,” knowing that his Captain is indeed “Fallen cold and dead.” The speaker thus celebrates the end of the Civil War but continues to express his need to mourn his fallen hero. 

The poem starts with a tone of praise and commendation, as “our trip is done.” Whitman praises Lincoln’s efforts during the Civil War, stating that “the port is near.” In other words, Lincoln led the ship of state through the war, and the ship is about to safely be led to port. Then, the poem has a more mournful tone in the second part of each stanza (the second half of each stanza is indented). For example, the second part of the first stanza reads, “But O heart! heart! heart!” The repetition of the word “heart” and the reference to “bleeding drops of red” refer to the nation’s grief over Lincoln’s assassination.

The second stanza mentions the celebrations that are being conducted to commemorate the end of the war. The poem mentions the ways in which the nation is celebrating, including bells, bugle calls, and “bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths.” In the midst of this celebration, mourners are grieving for Lincoln, who is commemorated in a more somber tone in the second half of the stanza, which begins “Here Captain! dear father!”

The third stanza begins with an elegiac tone. It starts, “My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still.” The second half of the stanza is both celebratory and somber. It begins, “Exult O shores, and ring O bells!” 

other words, the poet wants the celebrations of the war’s end to continue, but he says he will be in mourning: “But I with mournful tread, Walk the deck my Captain lies.” This goes back to the metaphor of the ship of state, on whose deck Lincoln lies slain.

This elegy used an extended metaphor. That means that a metaphor is stated, and the comparison is extended as far as the poet can take it. The Captain is Abraham Lincoln and the ship is the United States of America. Lincoln has steered his ship (country) safely into the harbour after enduring the trials and tribulations of the Civil War. He has succeeded in putting an end to the inhuman practice of slavery, but unfortunately the Captain, Abraham Lincoln, has sacrificed his life in this noble endeavour.

The main theme of the elegy is that a noble leader-the Captain- must be ready to lay down his life in the struggle for justice. Courage, both physical and mental, and integrity of purpose are the hallmark of a true leader.

Q.2. Discuss Union of Dramatic and Lyrical elements in Whitman’s “O Captain, My Captain,”

Ans. A lyric is any fairly short poem, uttered by a single speaker, who expresses a state of mind or a process of perception, thought, and feeling. “O Captain, My Captain,” is a ceremonial poem uttered in a public voice on a public occasion, namely on the death of Abhraham Lincoln. As in many other lyric poems, there is a strong prevalence of objective or dramatic element.

The speaker shouts with sheer excitement to ship’s captain about making it home safe and sound. The ship after enduring tough storms and impenetrable winds made it back on the dock. Jaded and exhausted after a tiresome journey, the mission has been a roaring success. Although the ship is yet to arrive safely in the harbor, but ‘land ahoy’, ‘land ahoy’ as the ship is close by and people are seemingly exulted by its sight. The church bells are ringing and people act animatedly as the ship nigh the shore. The excitement escalates as the boat nears the harbor. The keel has been thrown in to steady the moving ship. Keel can also be referred to the ‘ship’ as well, same as ‘all hands on deck’ means all people should be ready. ship draws near the harbor, the poem takes on a dark turn,

As the foreboding something unfavorable to be revealed. ‘Grim and daring’ are the terms referring to the twisting mood. The would-be ghost ship carries some unwanted news for the awaiting crowd.

Now he speaks from the heart. The heart has shattered and torn over the death of the ship’s captain. The breakdown of emotions is surging from the sailor as the fallen comrade lies beside him, in all his glory but dead. Drops of blood are flowing on the ship’s deck, the blood of Abraham Lincoln.

The sailor implores the now dead captain to rise from the of talking to the dead is known as apostrophe. Reason being, the people ashore await their prized captain to lead the way and stamp his mark on dead. The crowd is jubilant as they celebrate using a number of devices such as raising flag in victory, holding flowers and cheering for the captain. glimpse is getting restless, as anticipation rise in order to catch a longer with them.

The of their ship’s captain. Alas! He’s In actuality, the ship’s captain is not his biological father, but truly his respect and reverence for him stands greater than his actual father. The sailor looks at the fallen comrade and wishes this nightmare was just a dream. Alas! sets in, the sailor realizes, the damage is irreparable. in pure agony. 

As the reality The sailor looks sadly at the dead captain his lips to have paled a la that of a corpse. The captain fails to respond his cries of helplessness. The liveliness from the captain’s face has drained now. landed safely in the harbor with its anchor thrown in. The voyage is now His pulse has stopped and he’s unlikely to move from now on. The ship has complete. The sailor reminisces about the trip to be extremely arduous yet the line with a trade-off. 

they crossed The concluding lines of the poem explicate the fact that sailor has bad news to share with the awaiting crowd. He appeals directly to the loud jeers, cheers and ringing bells for the much awaited captain. Again, the poet uses synecdoche to represent entire American audience at large as the poem relates to death of Abraham Lincoln. The sailor feels uncomfortable as he needs to relay the bad news to the populace at large, as the victory celebrations come to a standstill eventually.

“O Captain, My Captain” is sung in the voice of a Union recruit. He is a young boy; he has sailed on the ship of state with his captain, whom he calls, Oedipally, “dear father”; the tide of war has now turned and victory is in sight, as cheering crowds welcome the victorious ship. At this very moment the captain is shot, and dies. The moving turn of the poem comes two-thirds of the way through the poem. In the rest (previous) two stanzas the boy addresses the captain as someone still living, a “you” who, cradled in the boy’s arm, can hear the words directed to him. But in the third stanza the young sailor un-willingly resorts to third-person reference, marking his captain as dead: “My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still.” The hierarchy of commander-remote from his troops-has been lessened to the hierarchy of captain-sharing a ship with his men-and then lessened to the familial hierarchy of father and son, as Lincoln’s relation to others becomes ever more democratic, even intimate.

It is a direct in unburdening of the author’s overweighed heart. He does not materially differ in his feeling from his fellow-citizens, and everyone, i reading the poetry aloud, adopt the emotion as his own. There is certainly no dramatic emotion in the heart of the speaker in the poem. But there is definitely a figurative situation and representation of the Ship of State, coming in from its long voyage, – that is, the civil war, Lincoln, the captain, lying dead upon the deck. These objective elements enable us to grasp the situation, and more delicately suggests Lincoln, of and a picture •

whose as a Two stylistic features-its meter and its use of refrain-mark “O Captain” designedly democratic, and blends its lyrical and dramatic elements. In each stanza, four seven-beat lines are followed by a slightly changing ballad frain. Whitman has chosen to speak now as a sailor-boy, the diction of the poem offers the clichés of victory that such a boy might use: “Our fearful trip is done, the prize we sought is won, / The port is near.” Everything on shore adheres to the expected conventions of popular celebration-“For … you the flag is flung-for you the bugle trills, …” Even “the bleeding drops of red,” the “mournful tread” of the sailor, and the captain “fallen cold and dead” come from the clichés of war-journalism.

 

Lyrical poetry usually follows a rhyme scheme. Throughout the poem there is a distinct rhyme scheme, – AABCDEFE, GGHIJEKE, and LLMNOEPE for each stanza respectively, which is unusual for Whitman. The poem is an elegy- melancholic, mournful and contemplative. The melodic flow of words synchronizing with the somber mood and intense sadness makes it one of the most memorable lyrical elegies.

Q.3. Discuss on the examples of symbolism in “O Captain! My Captain!”

Ans. Poet Walt Whitman greatly admired Abraham Lincoln. He wrote “O Captain! My Captain!” in honour of the president in 1865, shortly after Lincoln’s assassination.

The speaker shouts with sheer excitement to ship’s captain about making it home safe and sound. The ship after enduring tough storms and impenetrable winds made it back on the dock. Jaded and exhausted after a tiresome journey, the mission has been a roaring success. Although the ship is yet to arrive safely in the harbor, but ‘land ahoy’, ‘land ahoy’ as the ship is close by and people are seemingly exulted by its sight. The church bells are ringing and people act animatedly as the ship nigh the shore. The excitement escalates as the boat nears the harbor. The keel has been thrown in to steady the moving ship. Keel can also be referred to the ‘ship’ as well, same as ‘all hands on deck’ means all people should be ready.

As the ship draws near the harbor, the poem takes on a dark turn, foreboding something unfavorable to be revealed. ‘Grim and daring’ are the terms referring to the twisting mood. The would-be ghost ship carries some unwanted news for the awaiting crowd.

Now he speaks from the heart. The heart has shattered and torn over the death of the ship’s captain. The breakdown of emotions is surging from the sailor as the fallen comrade lies beside him, in all his glory but dead. Drops of blood are flowing on the ship’s deck, the blood of Abraham Lincoln.

 

The sailor implores the now of talking to the dead is known as apostrophe. Reason being, the people ashore await their prized captain to lead the way and stamp his mark on

history. The crowd is jubilant as they celebrate using a number of devices such as raising flag in victory, holding flowers and cheering for the captain. The crowd is getting restless, as anticipation rise in order to catch a glimpse ship’s captain. Alas! He’s no longer with them.

of their In actuality, the ship’s captain is not his biological father, but truly his looks at the fallen comrade and wishes this nightmare was just a dream. Alas! respect and reverence for him stands greater than his actual father. The sailor As the reality sets in, the sailor realizes, the damage is irreparable. 

The sailor looks sadly at the captain pure observes his lips to have paled a la that of a corpse. The captain fails to respond his cries of helplessness. The liveliness from the captain’s face has drained now. His landed safely in the harbor with its anchor thrown in. The voyage is now pulse has stopped and he’s unlikely to move from now on. The ship has complete. The sailor reminisces about the trip to be extremely arduous yet they crossed the line with a trade-off.

 

The concluding lines of the poem explicate the fact that sailor has some bad news to share with the awaiting crowd. He appeals directly to the loud jeers, cheers and ringing bells for the much awaited captain. Again, the poet uses synecdoche to represent entire American audience at large as the poem relates to death of Abraham Lincoln. The sailor feels uncomfortable as he needs to relay the bad news to the populace at large, as the victory celebrations come to a standstill eventually.

Whitman saw Lincoln as the greatest and most moral person in the country, according to professor David S. Reynolds, and his elegy mourns the symbolic fallen captain.

Whitman’s Captain : Whitman celebrated Lincoln as an average American who became the commander in chief, according to Reynolds. In the first line of Whitman’s work, the speaker says that he and his captain reached the end of the “fearful trip,” which is reference to the Civil War. In the second and third stanzas, the speaker refers to Lincoln as his father, as though the late president’s efforts had brought the country together as a family. Throughout the poem, the speaker reflects his level of respect and admiration for Lincoln as he refers to him as “my captain” and “my father.” This indicates that the speaker felt that Lincoln’s death was a personal loss.

The Weathered Ship: The ship in Whitman’s poem symbolizes the United States. Just as a ship endures turbulent winds while on the water, the country survived the hardships and sacrifices of the Civil War. The speaker says that they won the prize that they sought during their voyage. The prize represents the peaceful reunification of the Northern and Southern states. According to the speaker, the voyage left the ship looking “grim and daring.” The Civil War was the country’s bloodiest war in history, according to a 2012 “New York Times” article, and the condition of the ship in the poem is like the condition of the country and those who survived the war, but the speaker says that hope accompanies the ship’s grim appearance.

The Ship’s Anchor: The ship’s anchor in “O Captain! My Captain!” is symbolizes the Civil War, it may also symbolize Lincoln’s life. When the a symbol for the end of Civil War and Lincoln’s death. While the voyage speaker says that the anchored ship is safe and sound, Whitman refers to the country being out of war and in a state of peace. The dropped anchor in the stanza means that the trip is “closed and done.”

third Swaying Masses: In the second stanza of “O Captain! My Captain!,” the speaker describes a crowd on the shore that’s excited to welcome the captain and the returning ship. The mass of people in the poem symbolize the American people who supported Lincoln and felt happy about the end of the war. In the work, the crowd is full of people who admire the captain for his works and dedication. The fact that the people aren’t aware of the captain’s death when they cheer for him shows that they celebrated him because of his actions and triumphs in life.

Q.4. Discuss “O Captain! My Captain!” as a patriotic poem.

Ans. The speaker shouts with sheer excitement to ship’s captain about home safe and sound. The ship after enduring tough storms and making impenetrable winds made it back on the dock. Jaded and exhausted after a tiresome journey, the mission has been a roaring success. Although the ship is yet to arrive safely in the harbor, but ‘land ahoy’, ‘land ahoy’ as the ship is close by and people are seemingly exulted by its sight. The church bells are ringing and people act animatedly as the ship nigh the shore. The excitement escalates as the boat nears the harbor. The keel has been thrown in to steady the moving ship. Keel can also be referred to the ‘ship’ as well, same as ‘all hands on deck’ means all people should be ready. dark turn,

As the ship draws near the harbor, the poem takes on a foreboding something unfavorable to be revealed. ‘Grim and daring’ are the terms referring to the twisting mood. The would-be ghost ship carries some unwanted news for the awaiting crowd.

Now he speaks from the heart. The heart has shattered and torn over the death of the ship’s captain. The breakdown of emotions is surging from the sailor as the fallen comrade lies beside him, in all his glory but dead. Drops of blood are flowing on the ship’s deck, the blood of Abraham Lincoln.

The sailor implores the now dead of talking to the dead is known as apostrophe. Reason being, the people ashore await their prized captain to lead the way and stamp his mark on history. The crowd is jubilant as they celebrate using a number of devices such as raising flag in victory, holding flowers and cheering for the captain. The crowd is getting restless, as anticipation rise in order to catch a glimpse of their ship’s captain. Alas! He’s no longer with them.

 

 

In actuality, the ship’s captain is not his biological father, but truly his respect and reverence for him stands greater than his actual father. The sailor looks at the fallen comrade and wishes this nightmare was just a dream. Alas! As the reality sets in, the sailor realizes, the damage is irreparable.

yet his lips to have paled a la that of a corpse. The captain fails to respond his The sailor looks sadly at the dead captain in pure agony. He observes cries of helplessness. The liveliness from the captain’s face has drained now. landed safely in the harbor with its anchor thrown in. The voyage is now complete. The sailor reminisces about the trip to be extremely arduous crossed the line with a trade-off.

The concluding lines of the poem explicate the fact that sailor has some bad news to share with the awaiting crowd. He appeals directly to the loud jeers, cheers and ringing bells for the much awaited captain. Again, the p uses synecdoche to represent entire American audience at large as the relates to death of Abraham Lincoln. The sailor feels uncomfortable needs to relay the bad news to the populace at large, as the victory they poet poern as he celebrations come to a standstill eventually.

The idea of patriotism is a recurring theme in Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! my Captain!”. Known as the Bard of Democracy, Whitman was heavily influenced by patriotism from an early age, mostly due to his parents; his brothers were named after famous American heroes such as George Washington and Thomas Jeffrey. This emphasis on nationalism led him to become one of America’s greatest and foremost poets. Due to these factors, Whitman inevitably developed strong feelings of admiration and loyalty to the President at that time, Abraham Lincoln. Therefore, Whitman’s famous poem, “O Captain! my Captain!” was written to honour Lincoln’s accomplishments and as a farewell to his hero.

O Captain! my Captain is an extended metaphor itself, displaying the impact that the death of Lincoln had on both Whitman and America. Throughout the poem, there is a re-occurrence of the word ‘Captain’ who has supposedly returned from a dangerous journey, only to die in the end. This represents Abraham Lincoln, who led his country through the ‘fearful trip’, which was the American Civil War, the bloodiest war in American history. It was a well-known fact that Whitman absolutely abhorred slavery after witnessing the brutality of the practice first-hand; Lincoln’s decision to lead the Union to victory and abolish slavery further fueled Whitman’s admiration for the President. Being a patriot himself, Whitman only wished the best for his beloved country, and saw the eradication of slavery as the only way to move forward in a positive manner.

One of the most direct references to the death and mourning of the ‘Captain’ or Abraham Lincoln is found in line 10 of the poem, “Rise up-for you the flag is flung-for you the bugle trills”. The American flag one of the most recognized symbols of patriotism, as it characterizes everything that Americans stand for. It represents unity as a country and the patriotic ideals and values of the country as a whole. The reference to the bugle gives the poem a militaristic tone, since bugles are used in military funerals; it also describes the country’s willingness to fight for the greater good under Lincoln’s leadership.

Q.5. Discuss themes of “O Captain! My Captain!”

Ans. There are several themes that are incorporated in the poem O Captain  My Captain by Walt Whitman.

CaptainLoyalty: A startling aspect of this poem is that the speaker shows such commitment to his fallen leader, referring to him as “my Captain” and even “my father.” The death, as a matter of fact, is sufficiently striking that it balances out the victory that is portrayed here as a voyage so successful that crowds eagerly cheer as the ship docks. As a tribute to President Lincoln, a man whom Whitman never met once in his life, this poem shows more fierce loyalty than could even be expected from actual ship’s crews or actual sons; it is a loyalty that does show itself sometimes in political followers. Whitman was politically involved, which was a part of his passion for life, and his enthusiasm was particularly sparked by Lincoln, who represented all that he thought a president should be. As early as 1855, in his essay “The Eighteenth Presidency,” Whitman showed outright, bitter disgust with the quality of men who had been holding the highest office in the land. In that essay he asks, “Where is the spirit of manliness and common sense of These States? It does not appear in the government. It does not appear at all in the Presidency.” At times in that essay, Whitman’s anger and talent for metaphor took him beyond the spirit of analysis, down near a level of name-calling: “The President,” he wrote, expressing dismay at Franklin Pierce’s policies of appeasing slave owners, “eats dirt and excrement for his daily meals, likes it, and tries to force it on The State.” It is hardly surprising that Whitman would feel, when Lincoln was elected in 1860, that at last someone who shared his spirit, courage, and love of democracy had finally arrived. The sort of loyalty described in this poem does not come from observing the world passively: it grows out of dealing with one disappointment after and finally finding one’s ideal turned into reality.

another Coming of Age: However the speaker of this poem is imagined-as a crew member, a son, or as Whitman himself-it is hard to miss the sense of shock felt and conveyed not only in his words but in several techniques Whitman uses. One is the free scattering of exclamation points throughout the poem; also, there is in an early line, “O heart! heart! heart!” which indicates an inability to express more than a single blurted word; another factor is the way the poem returns frequently to mentioning the dead body, as if the speaker is trying to force himself to believe it. When this is contrasted with the great success of the voyage, introduced early in the poem, the death is made even more shocking. More pressing than the irony or the pity of death at the moment of success is that the speaker is thinking about himself and what the future will hold for him. Not only do the personal references to “my Captain, my father” convey a sense of personal loss, but the self-consciousness of his actions in the poem’s last three lines shows loneliness and apprehension. The speaker, who has survived due to the Captain’s guidance, is left to fend for himself now, and he seems unsure symbolic ocean voyage are that he will be capable. This is the situation that coming of age stories typically focus on: youths who are forced by circumstances to make their own decisions. From every indication, there are no specific problems in this even speaker’s near future. The perils of the actual or past, and “the people are exulting.” It is a measure of how unprepared, immature, this speaker feels that he fears losing the Captain even when the is over. He has no choice, no longer has a parent figure whose judgement he can trust. He has sand for himself. -a matter

responsible Death: Death in this poem is abrupt and unexpectedof being here one moment and gone the next. It is senseless. The poem implies that made that impossible. In this poem, unlike many war poems, there is no to safety would at least be able to enjoy the crowd’s praise, but death has glory in death; there is no reward mentioned for a job well done on earth; ideas generally come up later, once the shock of death has worn off. the speaker makes no plans to carry on in the name of the Captain: those Whitman emphasizes the finality of death with his use of the words “fallen cold and dead,” which not only stress a sudden lack of mobility and lack of heat, but also, in the tone of the last three, one-syllable words, makes the reader “hear” a corpse’s thudding lifelessness.

Q.6. Discuss “O Captain! My Captain!” as a historical poetry.

Ans. The captain in Whitman’s poem is President Abraham Lincoln (president from 1861-65) whom he thought resembled, among other things, a sea captain. Assassinated in the year “O Captain! My Captain!” was written, Lincoln was loved and admired by Whitman most importantly because both were Unionists single-mindedly bent on keeping the states united against anyone they thought would tear them apart, especially proslavery Secessionists or anti-slavery Abolitionists. In the minds of Lincoln and Whitman,, the “ship of state,” the Union, must withstand-even at severe cost of life, liberty, and limb-the storm or “rack” (line 2) of the Civil War. Whitman had written of Lincoln: “UNIONISM, in its truest and amplest sense, formed the hardpan of his character.” The ship of state did, of course, hold and sail into the Union “port,” but at the cost of even Lincoln himself, who was shot on April 14, 1865, by a Secessionist five days after the Confederate General, Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox. The surrender, the viability of the Union, and the end of slavery are all part and parcel of the “prize we sought” (line 2) and the “object won” (line 20). Whitman was struck by the fact Lincoln was shot in a theater. For Whitman, the Civil War-he called it the Secession War and the Union War-was a storm that blasted not only the ship of state, but also the world-historical stage. Here was Lincoln, to Whitman one of the greatest actors on life’s stage, shot in a theater by John Wilkes Booth, a famous actor. Whitman detested for overacting. Was not Booth now overreacting by shooting the President, leaping onto a theater stage, catching his leg in and tearing down a Union flag, and speaking the lines Sic semper tyrannis (“Thus it shall always be for tyrants”)? “Deck,” mentioned three times in the same position of each stanza (lines 7, 15, 22) bears resemblance to this theater stage; the only difference between Booth and the shipmate of “O Captain! My Captain!” is that in the poem, the highly dramatic speaker is not an assassin, but a helpmate crying out while trying to bring the President back to life. It is as if the speaker in the poem had rushed on stage after Booth left it.

English novelist D. H. Lawrence noticed that the “I” of Whitman’s poetry, perhaps most notably in “Song of Myself,” merged not just poet and person but, through a kind of sympathy, attempted to merge poet with the world: with nature, the city, both sexes, the masses. Lawrence associates such mergence with death of a self: “Oh Walter, Walter, what have you done with it? What have you done with yourself? With your own individual self? For it sounds as if it had all leaked out of you, leaked into the universe.” Lawrence even wondered whether Whitman ever had a self to begin with. Remarking on Whitman’s strategy of sympathy, Lawrence called Whitman’s poetry, “post mortem effects,” that is, a dying of the self as Whitman tries to merge with the exterior world. This attempt at union is not only associable with Whitman’s Unionist sympathies, but with his subtle and perhaps sexually sublimated merging with Lincoln (“ONE IDENTITY! ONE IDENTITY!” as Lawrence characterizes Whitman’s call). Now and then when Whitman lived in Washington D.C. he would see the “Captain” riding in his carriage, and, said Whitman, “We have got so that we exchange bows, and very cordial ones.” Whitman claimed that Lincoln looked at him once, “and his look, though abstracted, happened to be directed steadily in my eye.” Whitman asserted that he saw something there no portraitist had ever seen, and that he, Whitman, was the only “portraitist” (Whitman gave several speeches about Lincoln) to have seen it. While not the totalizing, world-merging “I” Lawrence notices in poems like “Song of Myself,” Whitman, with his proximity and attachment to Lincoln, becomes a privileged “I” (and eye), not only with his remark above, but as sole witness to the death of Lincoln in “O Captain! My Captain!” The transition, from a totalizing self that attempts to merge with the world to a privileged self, came about because Whitman realized that Lincoln, with his presidency and dying, did for the country what Whitman had wanted all along to do with his poetry: maintain the Union. Lincoln accomplished this, however, not with rousing poems but with presidential acts and proclamations and with the supreme sacrifice that also served to unite the country. Having realized Lincoln’s success, Whitman would have to demote himself, not quite to the level of the common man-of the masses cheering on in ” redeemer and common man. The new Whitman becomes the speaker of “O Captain! My Captain!”-but to the privileged “I” somewhere between arm crowd, and the Union by conveying to them the full meaning of the Captain’s death. Because the Captain can no longer feel the shipmate’s a (line 10) and has been obliterated in Lincoln’s dead senses, the helpmate, who is also Whitman, poet, and priest, must now rise to the occasion before him: because the helpmate knows he will have to make the crowd understand, he begins to anxiously “walk with mournful tread”-in other words, to pace the deck. He might finally get to preserve the Union by using the great of poetry.

President as the subject During the Civil War, Whitman nursed wounded soldiers in Washington D.C. and was critical of the way nurses were taught to resist becoming personally involved with their patients; he thought, against such teaching, that personal encouragement and care were themselves healers. The poet of “O Captain! My Captain!” attempts to bring the dead leader back to life by cradling the captain’s head in the crook of his arm and encouraging the corpse to stand up by telling him of the crowds cheering for him. A nurse to wounded bodies often connected to wounded souls, Whitman is known as a poet of both body and soul-a writer who believed the body was not to be denigrated at the expense of glorifying the soul.

In “O Captain! My Captain!” the dead body is described by Whitman in some detail: “the bleeding drops of red”; pale, still lips; no pulse, and the final prognosis, “cold and dead,” repeated three times at the potent end of each stanza. This is then contrasted with the ignorantly wild, very alive, cheering crowds. Compare Whitman’s juxtaposition with the Catholic glorification of Christ’s wounded and tortured body amongst the hordes of insensitive and ignorant crucifixion watchers who “know not what they do.” Stress is put on the idea that Lincoln was a man who died in the name of (the) Union, just as Christ died for the sake of humanity’s eventual union with God. Who, then, will be the one to make the world understand that Lincoln was a deliverer? The shipmate, of course, heretofore poet, priest, and Whitman himself and now Lincoln’s apostle, is not only the sole person in this poem who knows the Captain is dead, but is also the one who understands that the Captain will “rise” after death by becoming elevated by historians to the status of deliverer of the Union, our greatest President. Recall that this apostle, who is Whitman himself, is the only man he thought could draw Lincoln’s portrait while Lincoln was still alive. Now Whitman becomes the lone soul who seems fully to understand that this dead Captain will indeed rise to the level of greatness.

a memorial overshadowed his murder. As the kind of nurse-poet who attempts to merge not only with his patients but with the world, Whitman might be expected to attempt to merge with Lincoln, even the lifeless Lincoln. But this would mean merging with death. While a nurse, Whitman respected soldiers’ “meeting their death with steady composure, and often with curious readiness,” but he could not, if he had indeed tried, merge with them or with death-he was too vital. The most he could do was see that what he had written in “Song of Myself,” that it was just as lucky to die as be born, was likely true. The inability of the living-even the all-living Whitman-to merge with the dead, probably humbled Whitman. As much as it is a horror, death is a kind of privilege to which the living have no access, and in which Lincoln’s achievements have “I’m honest when I say, damn My Captain and all the My Captains in my book …I’m almost sorry I ever wrote that poem… I say that if I’d written a whole volume of My Captains I’d deserve to be spanked and sent to bed with the world’s compliments-which would be generous treatment, considering what a lame duck book such a book would have been!”

-Walt Whitman a privilege for which Whitman likely envied Lincoln. Death is a place only the dead can go, and Whitman, whose arm in the poem was as if nonexistent to the dead Lincoln, was shut out from merging with both Lincoln and death. He was, himself, dead to death. But the humbled countenance was not to stick to a poet who fashioned himself as big as America itself. As if in overcompensation for his smallness before death and the greatest of Presidents (a President who had done everything Whitman had wanted to do with his poems), the poet becomes the privileged being who truly understands both Lincoln and the meaning of his life. While Lincoln was alive, Whitman had already fancied himself connected to the essential, living Lincoln. With “O Captain! My Captain!” Whitman links his name with Lincoln’s in immortality; he remains alive to history not only through his epic poetry of self, but through the death of the President whose greatness he would both identify with and envy.

Q.7. Comment on Walt Whitman’s poetic style in “O Captain! My Captain!”

Ans. The critical reaction to “O Captain! My Captain!,” has been widely mixed. When first published, it was so broadly read and accepted that it became an instant classic, but as time has passed it has become less and less lauded by literary critics. Donald Hall in his essay “The Invisible World” goes so far as to call it a “ghastly lyric,” while Robert Creeley admitted in his “Introduction to Whitman Selected” that he was “embarrassed” that his “grandmother could recite that terrible poem.” In part, of course, such reactions have more to do with fashion than with the quality of the poem. However, for Whitman admirers, this poem is somewhat of an anomaly in from the many advances Whitman offered to the world of American poetry. One explanation for Whitman’s poetic back-pedaling is given by Ezra Greenspan in his book Walt Whitman and the American Reader. Greenspan suggests that “O Captain! My Captain!,” simply proves that Whitman “knew very well how to please conventional taste.” Read in this manner, “O Captain! My Captain!,” is then a deliberate attempt on Whitman’s part to reach a wider audience for his views on the important historical moment that is the subject of the poem.

that its traditional meter and rhyme scheme constitute a poetic step backward

On the other hand, Betsy Erkkila, in her book Whitman the Political Poet is a further sign of the (1989), argues that the poem’s “formal regularity artistic control that Whitman had to exercise in order to ‘cover over’ the sense of ‘horror, fever, uncertainty, alarm in the public’ aroused by Lincoln’s assassination.” In other words, the speaker of the poem is obviously distraught, but the controlled form of the poem hides this impulse. Similarly, while “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” deals rather directly with Lincoln’s death, “O Captain! My Captain!,” distances itself from its subject matter by couching it within the poem’s controlling metaphor. As Erkkila puts it, “Speaking in the voice of the civil servant, the poet refuses really to engage the feelings unleashed by Lincoln’s violent death…. Through the rigid deployment of rhyme, meter, refrain and regularly patterned stanzas, Whitman keeps Lincoln’s death distant, contained, and safe, as he memorializes the president in his more public and legendary dimension as the martyr of the cause of national union.” …

“O Captain! My Captain!” is one of four poems in “Memories of President Lincoln,” a section of Walt Whitman’s ever-changing and expanding compendium of poems, Leaves of Grass. The poem is preceded by the long and more frequently anthologized poem on Lincoln’s funeral procession, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” and followed by “Hush’d Be the Camps Today,” which is based on a story of how news of Lincoln’s assassination silenced a battalion of marching soldiers dead in their tracks. The last of the four, “This Dust Was Once a Man,” is a four-line tribute to the accomplishments of the sixteenth President. With a mostly regular rhyme scheme (aabbcded), iambic rhythm of unaccented and accented syllables, and regular stanzaic shape, “O Captain! My Captain!” was a departure into tradition for Whitman, whose verse was mainly free verse devoid of regular meter, rhyme, and stanzas. This deviation would cause the poet problems because “O Captain! My Captain!” became one of his most popular poems: “If Walt Whitman had written a volume of My Captains,” wrote a contemporary critic, “instead of filling a scrapbasket with waste and calling it a book the world would be better off today and Walt Whitman would have some excuse for living.” This sentiment irritated Whitman; his free verse had been written for the “common man,” someone he thought uninterested in or unacquainted with poetic craft.

Captains in my book! I’m almost sorry I ever wrote that poem I say that if I’d written a whole volume of My Captains I’d deserve to be spanked and sent to bed with the world’s compliments-which would be considering what a lame duck book such a book would have been!” generous treatment, … ….

“O Captain! My Captain!” is essentially a threnody, a lament for the dead. It is written in heroic couplets-the last two of each stanza being broken into four lines that incorporate conventional meter and end rhyme. Also, the refrain of the poem serves to heighten the sense of horror and disbelief felt by the speaker upon discovering his leader and surrogate father has died.

Heroic couplets are characterized as two-line verses that consist primarily of iambic meter and incorporate a fixed (aabb) rhyme scheme. “Iambic” refers to the fact that the poem consists primarily of iambic feet-segments of two syllables, the first unstressed and the second stressed. For example the line below is written entirely in iambs:

Where on the deck / my Cap / tain lies …

However, the second half of the above line (or what would be a line if the couplet were not broken apart into what are called hemistiches) is made up of trochaic feet: segments of two syllables in which the first syllable is stressed and the second is unstressed. In addition, a single extra stressed syllable is added to the end of the line to give it a rising rhythm. Fal len / cold and / dead.

In breaking up the final couplet of each stanza and diversifying the meter of the poem in this manner, Whitman is simply taking liberties with the heroic stanza form. Variations in rhythm add an element of surprise for the reader but also serve to create a tension in the poem that could not have been attained had the poet used only iambic meter.

Rhyme, of course, refers to repetitions of similar sounds as in “sharp/ harp” and “riddle/middle.” When a poem incorporates a consistent pattern of rhyme, it is said to have a fixed rhyme scheme. End-line rhyme is a scheme in which rhymes are consistently positioned at the ends of lines. In “O Captain! My Captain!,” the rhyme scheme of the poem can be depicted as: aabbxcxc. The end-rhymed words are done / won (a a); exulting / daring (b b); and red / dead (c c). The unrhymed words denoted by x’s, are heart / lies. and serves to

End rhyme is perhaps the most traditional of unify rhythm and add a sense of musicality to a poem. It also succeeds in emphasizing important words by giving them extra attention and making them stand out in the reader’s mind. While end-line rhyme was once synonymous with poetry, developments in free verse and blank verse have largely come into favor and end-line rhyme poetry is thought by many to be overly conventional and restrictive. Nevertheless, end rhyme has its roots in the oral tradition of poetry, when poems with such a rhyme scheme were more easily memorized and handed down from generation to generation. of verse that is repeated in a poem. In “O Captain! My Captain!,” the refrain “Fallen cold and dead” reiterates the meaning of the poem and builds tension. The first occurrence of this line simply sets the scene, but with the repetition of the same line in the second stanza, a different quality is communicated. The reader becomes aware that the speaker is trying to accept his Captain’s death. There is a sense of disbelief and uncertainty, and more importantly, a feeling that the speaker is still holding out hope that his Captain is not actually dead and that he might “rise up.” The last refrain then heightens the sense of desperation in the poem and simultaneously gives a sense of finality. With the close of the poem the reader knows definitively that the Captain is indeed dead and that this has not all been a bad dream.

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