"that Whitman poem"

Walt Whitman (1819–92)
Public DomainWalt Whitman (1819–92) - Credit: George C. Cox.

Walter Whitman (1819-1892) was an American poet whose self-published collection Leaves of Grass was controversial at the time, not least for its challenging sexual content.  "O Captain! My Captain!" (1865) is perhaps his best known poem, and is popularly seen as concerned with the death of Abraham Lincoln. The extended metaphor revolves around the 'ship', which represents the United States, whilst the 'fearful trip' becomes the American Civil War. It begins:


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.


Read the full poem here.