Friday, May 28, 2010

O Captain, My Captain!

I think it is but appropriate to start this blog with the poem popularized by the 1989 film "Dead Poets Society" where we got our name. Remember John Keating (Robin Williams)? He is the English teacher we wish we all had because he encourages his students with words like "Carpe Diem! Seize the day! And make your lives extraordinary!" He also told them that they may call him "O Captain! My Captain" if they feel daring...

O Captain, My Captain!
By Walt Whitman (1865)

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 anchored 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.

The Poem and Poet Exposed:

Walt Whitman wrote this poem after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln (he was a journalist, essayist and poet during that time). Major metaphors include "the ship" (representing the United States of America) and "fearful trip" (American Civil War). Who is "O Captain, My Captain!"? Take a good guess... Clue: not Robin Williams haha =)

Whitman's poems are generally prose-like and he didn't usually abide with poetic form (strict meter and rhyme). Many regard him as the "father of free verse" though he was not its inventor.

Until now, biographers are debating about his sexuality --- either homosexual or bisexual. What do you think?...