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.
Summary and Analysis
Meaning of the Poem
O Captain! My Captain! is a metaphor poem written in 1865 by Walt Whitman, about the death of American president Abraham Lincoln. The poem is classified as an elegy or mourning poem. The fallen captain in the poem refers to Abraham Lincoln, captain of the ship that is the United States of America. The first line establishes the poem’s mood, one of relief that the Civil War has ended, “our fearful trip is done.” The next line references the ship, America, and how it has “weathered every rack”, meaning America has braved the tough storm of the Civil War, and “the prize we sought”, the preservation of the Union, “is won”. The following line expresses a mood of jubilation of the Union winning the war as it says “the people all exulting;” however, the next line swiftly shifts the mood when it talks of the grimness of the ship, and the darker side of the war. Many lost their lives in the American Civil War, and although the prize that was sought was won, the hearts still ache amidst the exultation of the people. The repetition of heart in line five calls attention to the poet’s vast grief and heartache because the Captain has bled and lies still, cold, and dead (lines six through eight). This is no doubt referencing the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and Whitman’s sorrow for the death of his idol.