Wednesday, April 14, 2010

National Poetry Month: Captain Obvious edition

The President is dead, murdered. Four years of civil war, one family trauma after another, the freaky dream in which he arrived late at his own funeral. Rarely do we see politicians carry their internal strife so clearly on their faces. Walt Whitman thought so too when he penned "O Captain, My Captain." As usual, this poem leaves me with a catch in breath at the speaker's anguish. Rereading this poem recently, I was surprised at the line, "Hear Captain, Dear Father!" For me this poem has often evoked the image of a child staggered by his father's mortality. I just didn't remember the line being in there.

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.

Listening to The Decemberists "Sons & Daughters"

1 comment:

Strand Family said...

This makes me want to dig through the basement and pull out Leaves of Grass.
I saw your comment on my blog. I started to write about the insurance of having a big family since most kids wouldn't make it, but it was a little too much death/reality for my little blog to handle :)