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OCaptain ,My Captain by Walt Whitman
Prepared by Dr. Baburam Swami - Assistant Professor - English

O Captain! My Captain!



Poet and journalist Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819 in West Hills, New York. ... Having continued to produce new editions of Leaves of Grass along with original works, Whitman died on March 26, 1892 in Camden, New Jersey.

Abraham Lincoln is his Captain the poem was written in 1865

My Captain!, three-stanza poem by Walt Whitman, first published in Sequel to Drum-Taps in 1865. From 1867 the poem was included in the 1867 and subsequent editions of Leaves of Grass. “O Captain! My Captain!” is an elegy on the death of Pres.

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.

This poem is to enable students to know about the world's greatest personalities. They will understand the importance of learning about nation and universe dignitaries, the great souls like Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi will imbibe and inculcate national, democratic, patriotic, and sublime spirit among students.

Definition of Elegy

An elegy is a mournful poem, usually written in remembrance of a lost one for a funeral or as a lament. An elegy tells the traffic story of an individual, or an individual’s loss, rather than the collective story of a people, which can be found in epic poetry. An elegy generally combines three stages of loss: first there is grief, then praise of the dead one, and finally consolation.

yone Should Read

MAR 31

Posted by interestingliterature

The best elegies in English

The Oxford English Dictionary defines an elegy as ‘A song or poem of lamentation, esp. for the dead; a memorial poem’. Death, and memorialising the dead, has long been a feature of poetry. Here are ten of the best elegies from English poetry, from the Middle Ages to the 1980s. What would you add to our list of the greatest elegiac poems in English? (Shelley’s Adonais, by the way, would have been number 11 on this list if we’d extended it beyond a top ten.)

Anonymous, Pearl. One of the first great elegies in the English language, Pearl was written by an anonymous poet in the late fourteenth century – probably the same poet who also gave us Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. A lament for a child who has died, and a classic example of the medieval dream-poem, Pearl is a long work but is well worth reading, whether in the original Middle English that summons up an age long past or in a modern translation, such as the recent one by Simon Armitage.

Ben Jonson, ‘On My First Sonne’. This short poem movingly pays tribute to Jonson’s son, who we know from the poem was called Benjamin, or Ben, after his father, and who died young. Jonson says that his one sin was to entertain too many hopes for his son’s future. This is a ‘sinne’ because the child’s fate, like everyone’s, is not in Jonson’s hands, but God’s.

John Milton, ‘Lycidas’. This 1637 poem, written thirty years before Milton’s great epic Paradise Lost was published, is an example of a pastoral elegy, and commemorates Milton’s friend from Cambridge, Edward King, who drowned in August 1637. Although Samuel Johnson hated it, declaring that ‘in this poem there is no nature, for there is no truth; there is no art, for there is nothing new’, the poem is widely regarded as one of the finest elegies in the English language. Its closing line, referring to ‘fresh woods, and pastures new’, is also often quoted (and misquoted).

Katherine Philips, ‘Epitaph’. Philips (1632-64) wrote this short poem as an elegy for her son, ‘H. P.’, who died just six weeks after he was born. The joyous exultation with which the birth had been greeted – ‘A son, a son is born at last’ – turns to tragedy with the boy’s death, in this heart-wrenching and accessible elegy by an underrated seventeenth-century female poet.

Thomas Gray, ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’. Probably inspired by the death of fellow poet Richard West in 1742, Gray’s ‘Elegy’ was completed in 1750 and published the following year. It was one of the most popular poems of the second half of the eighteenth century and remained a classroom favourite well into the twentieth century. Technically, though, it shouldn’t really be on this list of best elegies – because in terms of its form Gray’s ‘Elegy’ is not an elegy. It doesn’t mourn West or any one other individual, but is instead more of an ode, which sees Gray meditating on death and the lives of simple rustic folk.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam A. H. H. One of the great poems of the Victorian era, this long elegy in 130 ‘cantos’ is a sort of verse diary charting Tennyson’s grief over the sudden death of his best friend, Arthur Henry Hallam, in 1833. Tennyson’s powerful portrayal of grief, leading gradually to acceptance, is well-known for some of its memorable lines – ‘Nature red in tooth and claw’ and ‘better to have loved and lost’ – but there’s a wealth of fine poems here in this larger poem. If you’ve ever lost someone close to you, this poem should strike a chord.

Christina Rossetti, ‘A Dirge’. This poem is not one of Rossetti’s absolute classics, but a phrase from it has had a new lease of life in the last few years: J. K. Rowling borrowed ‘the cuckoo’s calling’ from the poem and used it as the title for one of her novels.

W. H. Auden, ‘Stop all the clocks’. Also known as ‘Funeral Blues’, this poem from Auden’s cycle of Twelve Songs reached a whole new audience when it was recited in the 1994 film Four Weddings and a Funeral. What use is the world if it does not have the one we love contained within it? When they are gone, everything becomes pointless, useless, colourless. This is what Auden’s classic poem captures so well.

Tony Harrison, ‘Timer’. Stephen Spender called Tony Harrison’s elegies on the deaths of his parents the sort of poems he felt as if he’d waited his whole life to read. This 1980 poem sees Harrison reflecting on the death of his mother, and on his father’s insistence that the eternity ring he bought for Harrison’s mother should be cremated with her body, since it was his way of ensuring that, when Harrison’s father died, he would be reunited with his wife in the afterlife. After the cremation, Harrison goes to collect his mother’s clothing and the eternity ring is also among his mother’s belongings.

Douglas Dunn, ‘The Kaleidoscope’. Dunn, a Scottish poet born in 1942, wrote Elegies – his most critically acclaimed collection – in honour of his wife, who died young from cancer in 1981. Elegies is written in a clear, honest, and direct voice and ‘The Kaleidoscope’, a sonnet about the nature of grief in the wake of a loved one’s death, is a fine example of how Dunn created moving poetry out of personal tragedy.


The poem is an elegy to the speaker's recently deceased Captain, at once celebrating the safe and successful return of their ship and mourning the loss of its great leader. In the first stanza, the speaker expresses his relief that the ship has reached its home port at last and describes hearing people cheering. Despite the celebrations on land and the successful voyage, the speaker reveals that his Captain's dead body is lying on the deck. In the second stanza, the speaker implores the Captain to "rise up and hear the bells," wishing the dead man could witness the elation. Everyone adored the captain, and the speaker admits that his death feels like a horrible dream. In the final stanza, the speaker juxtaposes his feelings of mourning and pride.


Whitman wrote this poem shortly after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. It is an extended metaphor intended to memorialize Lincoln's life and work. The Captain represents the assassinated president; the ship represents the war-weathered nation following the Civil War; the "prize won" represents the salvaged union. The speaker, torn between relief and despair, captures America's confusion at the end of the Civil War. It was a time of many conflicting sentiments, and Whitman immortalizes this sense of uncertainty in "O Captain! My Captain!"

Whitman's poetry places a lot of emphasis on the individual. This particular poem explores a variation on that theme: the self vs. the other. The speaker struggles with balancing his personal feelings of loss with the celebratory mood resulting from the successful voyage. While the Civil War claimed many lives, it led to the reunification of the Union, so many Americans felt similarly divided. In Whitman's poem, the speaker believes that he should be part of the "other" group, celebrating the return to safety. However, his inner thoughts set him apart from the crowd as he tries to reconcile his emotional reaction to the Captain's death.

"O Captain! My Captain!" is the only Walt Whitman poem that has a regular meter and rhyme scheme. Often hailed as "the father of free verse," Whitman tended to write his poems without following any kind of ordered poetic form. However, "O Captain! My Captain!" is organized into three eight-line stanzas, each with an AABBCDED rhyme scheme. Each stanza closes with the words "fallen cold and dead," and the first four lines of each stanza are longer than the last four lines. Because this poem is an elegy to the dead, the more traditional format adds to its solemnity. Additionally, the regular meter is reminiscent of a soldier marching across the battlefield, which is fitting for a poem that commemorates the end of the Civil war

"O CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN" a narrative poem?

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