“O Captain! My Captain!” Rework

An acquaintance recently sent me this picture of a rework by the author himself of O Captain! My Captain! written by Walt Whitman. Whitman wrote this poem shortly after the death of Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and it considered one of his greatest.

I find just seeing the changes written in the great poet’s own hand thrilling…Here is what the Library of Congress writes about the rework:

Restlessly creative, Whitman was still revising “O Captain! My Captain!” decades after its creation. Pictured here is a proof sheet of the poem, with his corrections, which was readied for publication in 1888. The editors apparently had erred by picking up earlier versions of punctuation and whole lines that had appeared in the poem prior to Whitman’s 1871 revision.

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
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.

3 Responses to “O Captain! My Captain!” Rework

  1. PaulM says:

    Tony: One of the great American poems. So timely with the Civil War remembrances this month.

  2. John Quealey says:

    Tony that poem brings me back to grade six with Sr. St. Louis we use to say “A poem a day keeps Louie away” maybe before “The Bloggers” husbands time.

  3. Marie says:

    John – My father could quote and recite many poems and delighted in doing so. I’m sure he learned those lessons at the Sacred Heart School from the nuns. Among his favorites were “Boots” and “Oh Captain, My Captain.” Bill and I studied and memorized “O Captain My Captain” under Sr. Mildred’s (SSMN) guidance – also at the Sacred Heart.!