1
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.

2
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.

3
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.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Walt Whitman's poem O Captain! My Captain!

133 Comments

  1. Heather Franken says:

    I know that this is about the death of our 14th president. But i simply have to agree with Ms. Emily Petersen. After reading her comment, it inspired me to learn more about Walt Whitman. The hardships that he had to encounter, especially after he lost his beloved father, who was a quaker. This poem is pure brilliance.

  2. InsomniKitty says:

    This poem is very sad, yet I feel joy.

  3. sam schultz says:

    when i was in 8th grade i read this poem and it took about a year before i finally could totally analyze it. For whitman to put Abraham and his fight for a union into a poem that makes no mention to either of the subjects related is amazing, its breath taking. I have read a lot a his poetry but this one with the rythum is by far my favorite..i have it memorized and will always..its on of those poems that will never leave your memorie..

  4. Chasten says:

    I think that this poem isreally showing emotion and I feel like I’m there when I read it

  5. Matt says:

    I love how Whitman can relate a captain to Abraham Lincoln dieing for his country or ship in this case.

  6. Seyanne says:

    awesome, v. moving

  7. Carlina says:

    As a teen growing up in modern America, I am faced with so many challenges every day. This poem inspired me to live life to the fullest.

  8. Natalia says:

    This poem was very inspiring. Yet, I thought it was quite sad and depressing.

  9. kiona says:

    I LOVE this poem it reminds me of why we need friends and what we believe in this is why I LOVE this poem!!
    ~kiona~

  10. Niessie says:

    I have a question: How would you read this part of the poem:


    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’re fallen cold and dead.”

    Is the “Here Captain!” supposed to be a phrase from the ‘swaying crowd’? When it says, “This arm beneath your head!” is it narrating how someone has gotten to Lincoln’s body and whoever it is is trying to hold the fallen president’s body up?

  11. joy thomas says:

    this poem gave me cold chills beyond belief it stunned me of how many feelings he felt for lincon they were so strong if i did not know any better i would think he had s/t for ol pres lincon lol jk i think he had a great amount of respect for him it was just unexsplianable what i felt while reading this strange but in away lovely poem

  12. Phanica says:

    I am a junior in high school.In my english class I was just asked to analysis this poem after watching “Dead Poets Society”;the movie is great, it symbolizes this poem and the history on it.

  13. Tayuko says:

    I love this great inspiring poem. I am very pleased with this work of Walt Whitman.

  14. thaly_lover says:

    What an amazing poem i love Walt Whitman and especially this poem O Captain! My Captain! and i love also his poem poets to come it is a beautiful poem

  15. Haley Jones says:

    I love and admire this poem on a personal scale. Last year in 7th grade, I had to pick an author to write a report on and memorize a poem of his. So, as you can guess, Whitman was my choice. What an amazing man he turned out to be, and I had hardly heard of him before then. This poem is so powerful. Not only is it about the dream Lincoln never fully was able to recognize, but in his death, so few people saw what a great person had been lost. Whitman has a knack for that, picking out what normal people miss. Obviously, Whitman was an introvert, as am I, to be able to notice and write such things.
    To all lovers of poetry and true emotion, watch DPS (Dead Poets Society) starring Robin Williams. It is my favorite movie, and you will easily see why.

    P.S.-to “yur mom” from Canada and others like this person: Please do not poison places of art with your disrespect. Sure, it may be funny to your friends and yourself, and you don’t have to enjoy this poem, but really, no one really needs to read your obsene comment. Thank you.

  16. Tiffany Heim says:

    This poem is about the speaker celebratimg the victory of the Union in the Civil War, but also the speaker mourns the loss of his “captain.” I have enjoyed reading this poem and I shall keep reading it because it is a very moving poem.

  17. Thomas Chamberlin says:

    This is, in my opinion, one of the best poems written by Walt Whitman.
    If you don’t understand the poem, please try to find out what it means before posting. If you feel the need to post that you don’t know what the poem is about, at least take the time to check your spelling… and capitalization… and your grammar… (There is this nifty thing called the Google toolbar. It has a spell check function.) This is not a chat room; you can take your time to look over your writing before you post.
    I won’t go in-depth about each stanza, as I am sure this has been commented on before. Anyway, if you have not already discovered the meaning of the poem, it is about the death of President Lincoln. This occurred mere days after Drum Taps began printing, and Whitman delayed its printing so he could add a poem about the death of Lincoln.

  18. Matt Wainwright says:

    This poem is hexa burley whicked!
    but seriously this poem is about the assasination of President Lincoln and the victory of the Civil War

  19. Alyssa Carson says:

    This is the most exciting, moving poem, that I’ve ever read.

  20. emily says:

    “Dead Poets Society” explains a lot. Amazing movie and amazing poem.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by Walt Whitman better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.