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Walt Whitman's Life & His Poem - "O Captain, My Captain!"
Transcript of Walt Whitman's Life & His Poem - "O Captain, My Captain!"
Run of words that rise and fall to make emphasis of thought
Need to read poems aloud to hear cadence
Other poetic elements:
Katrina M. Moore
Jordan M. Kirby
Cheyenne R. Calvert
Teachers for QualityCore 10 Unit
"A Noiseless,Patient Spider"
A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.
"O Captain!My Captain!"
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;
O 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.
Whitman's Poetic Elements
He was named after his father, Walter Whitman, Sr.
Throughout the later portion of his career, Whitman became increasingly obsessed with death, souls, and the thought of living forever.
In 1873, Whitman suffered from a paralytic stroke which would later lead to his death.
He also had an array of ailments.
Whitman died March 26, 1892, in Camden, New Jersey.
What does this title make you think of?
"I exist as I am, that is enough..."
- Walt Whitman
Some Background on Whitman
What can you predict this poem may be about according to it's title?
Have you heard/heard of this poem before?
Born on May 31, 1819 in West Hills, New York
He soon moved to Brooklyn at age three where he began to attend school; his formal schooling ended at age 11.
In 1841, his interests turned to journalism and eventually short stories.
His style was much like the popular works of that time period.
In 1850, he began traveling the U.S. and gained a vast perspective on the vastness and cultures.
Suddenly, his style changed.
In 1855, he self-published the first edition of Leaves of Grass (consisted of 12 poems); the themes were sacredness of self, death as part of the cycle of life, and equality of all beings.
It made him a revolutionary poet.
Whitman was considered the father of "free verse."
He was the second of nine children.
He was against slavery being expanded.
In 1856, the second edition was published.
He added twenty more poems to the collection.
He also worked in hospitals during the Civil War and was a "wound dresser".
Walt Whitman was never married.
Three of his brothers had the names of famous American leaders:
When he was eleven, his father was unable to support the family, so he went into the printing trade.
In 1836, at seventeen, he began teaching school and then founded a weekly newspaper called the Long Islander; he became a journalist by age 20.
George Washington Whitman
Thomas Jefferson Whitman
Andrew Jackson Whitman
"O Captain! My Captain!"
"A Noiseless Patient Spider"
Notice the diction.
Whitman uses specialized vocabulary here.
exulting - Show or feel elation or jubilation
vessel - ship or large boat
bugle - A brass instrument like a small trumpet, typically without valves or keys and used for military signals.
Apostrophe: The speaker is addressing the captain in the first stanza. The captain is already dead though.
What is an apostrophe?
a form of personification in which an individual addresses someone who is dead, someone who is not there, or an inanimate object
In the beginning of the poem, the tone is excited and happy. However, it slowly changes to one of dread and sadness.
Promontory- A bluff or plateau looking over lowland
Filament- A very fine or thread like structure
Ductile- Able to undergo change of form without breaking
Gossamer- A fine, filmy cobweb seen on grass, rocks, or in the air during calm weather, especially in autumn
What is it all about?
This poem is about Abraham Lincoln and the Union winning the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln died before the war was won and did not celebrate the victory. This is why the captain dies before the victorious voyage is completed.
“forth filament, filament, filament.”
(The “f” sound is actually meant to make the sound of the thread coming from the spider)
The theme of this poem is suffering. The catastrophic death of the captain in this poem shakes both Whitman and the speaker to the core. The speaker mourns the death of his hero and friend while others are celebrating the captain's victories.
The last few lines are comparing nature and emotions. He uses a metaphor to tie these two things together until they are difficult to pull apart.
The speaker is someone (most likely a man) who admires Lincoln much like Whitman. He is probably older and a part of the Union during that time period.
The speaker is speaking both to the dead captain and expressing his thoughts and feelings.
"When Lilacs Last
in the Dooryard Bloom'd"
One of Whitman's finest poems
Explores grief to the narrator and of the nation at Lincoln's death
Uses lilacs to symbolize life and rebirth
very lonesome and dreary
The theme is isolation.
Man vs. World.
What's it all about?
This poem is about Whitman and how alone he is. He compares his soul to the spider that sits alone. He goes from something as small as a spider to the entire universe.This poem takes a deep look into how Whitman thinks about the world and himself.
This poem also ventures into a scary place for many. Not many people like to think about the meaning of the universe, exploring unknown places alone, or having to tirelessly persevere until reaching a goal.
This poem is written in free verse. Whitman was known for using free verse regularly.
Are all a type of specialized vocabulary that was used during this time period.
The speaker is most likely an older man who feels extremely isolated from the world.
The speaker is expressing himself and all that he feels about the universe and his own soul. He is basically talking to himself.
The spider symbolizes a human soul that is “surrounded, attached, in measureless oceans of space,”. The fact that the spider is isolated symbolizes a feeling that most humans have experienced. The thread that the spider makes symbolizes goals that humans make for themselves. A spider is often something that people push away and don't want near them, Whitman feels like a spider.
This is evident in several poems from this time period.
Extended metaphor Captain Abraham Lincoln
Do you like/dislike the poem?Why or why not?
Why do you think Whitman gave the poem this title?
Would you have named it something different?If so, what?
Poetry Foundation website
This poem is atypical for Whitman in that it contained a regular rhyme and used a traditional form.