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O Captain! My Captain!" by Walt Whitman is a classic metaphor poem. Written after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, this poem was well received upon its publication in 1865. It was Whitman's first anthologized poem, and one of his most popular during his lifetime. It has been translated into more than thirty languages and has been recited all over the world. This poem is especially relevant today, as the United States has become more divided than ever, with the death of our nation's president.
Whitman's elegy to President Abraham Lincoln
The famous Walt Whitman elegy to President Abraham Lincoln is a moving poem about the nation's most beloved president. He was shot by John Wilkes Booth in April 1865 and died the next day. His body was then transported by train from Washington to Springfield, Illinois, where the people of the United States saluted him. In his poem, Walt Whitman depicts both people and nature saluting the deceased.
Walt Whitman never met Lincoln personally, but he saw him often in the streets of Washington, D.C., during the war years. While he never met Lincoln, his admiration for him grew as he visited the city to care for his wounded brother, George. Although Whitman was interested in Lincoln from the time of his brother's assassination, he also thought of him as an exceptional leader.
In "Personification of Captain O", Walt Whitman personifies a seemingly lifeless object, a shore. Whitman's use of personification is a classic example of metonymy, which is the naming of something by a name that has close association with it. The shores represent the masses of people who welcome the ship into the harbor. The apostrophe, a device used to call something from a distance, also makes a point of conveying his attachment to and love for the dead captain.
Whitman, who served in the Civil War as a nurse, used apostrophes to refer to both inanimate objects and dead people. For example, in the first two stanzas of "O Captain! My Captain!" the poet uses an apostrophe to refer to a dead man. In the third stanza, "Exult O shores, ring O bells!" uses an apostrophe to honor a deceased captain.
Repetition of "fallen cold and dead"
Repetition of "fallen cold and dead," as in the title of the poem, emphasizes the finality of death. The poet uses words like "fallen cold" and "dead" that reflect death's finality. These three words are all one-syllable, but the tone used to say them makes the reader hear them. The repetition of these words also gives the poem a sense of sadness and loss.
Williams uses repetition and anaphora to make the reader feel the narrator's grief and deep loss. He repeats the lines, "O Captain! My Captain!" and "fallen cold and dead," to emphasize the narrator's shock. He also changes the rhyme scheme in the last four lines of each stanza to emphasize the changing mood of the poem. The repetition is important because it conveys the feeling that the poet has for his deceased captain.
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