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On May 31, 1819, Walt Whitman was born in Huntington, New York. Walt Whitman was the second of nine children. His father, Walter Whitman, and mother, Louisa Van Velsor, were early settlers of Long Island. (?Chronology??)
Four years later, the Whitman family moved to Brooklyn, where Walt Whitman attended public school. In 1830, Walt Whitman quit school and for the next twenty years worked many jobs. These jobs included working as an office boy, a printer, a teacher, an editor, and a journalist. (?Chronology??) Only occasionally did he indulge his literary interest by writing some traditional poetry, short stories, and a novel. (?About??)
In 1855, Whitman employed his Brooklyn friends, the Rome brothers, who were printers at the time, to print his first poetry book, Leaves of Grass. Although this thin book of poems was not fully appreciated at the time; today, it is considered a literary magnum opus (masterpiece). (?About??)
For the rest of his life, Whitman continued to write poetry and prose, including ?O Captain! My Captain!? Sadly, he, the first American poet to achieve international acclaim, passed away March 26, 1892; but left with us many beautiful and amazing poems and prose pieces which are great works of art even today. (?About??) + (?Chronology??)
Walt Whitman?s poem ?O Captain, My Captain? was written as a tribute to Abraham Lincoln, who was assassinated shortly after the Civil War?s end. In this poem Walt Whitman?s use of metaphors impresses me. The whole poem is a metaphor comparing the country to the ship and the ?object won? to the unity of the United States after the Civil War. It also compares Abraham Lincoln to the captain of the ship. I did not find this poem interesting when I first read it. It was all about a sailor who loved his dead captain and was very descriptive but lacked any deep meaning. When my mom informed me of the real meaning, I looked at the poem in a completely different way.
The poem also shows exemplary imagery. I can almost smell the bouquets and hear the bugle trill. I love the way Walt Whitman uses strong and interesting words and phrases to make a point or describe a scene. An example would be when he says, ?Here Captain! Dear Father!? This phrase shows the reader his captain means more to him than just an amazing leader.
My favorite part of ?O Captain! My Captain? is its amazing rhythm and repetition. It flows in a smooth staccato way and is very easy to read. The repetition in this poem adds to the rhythm, connecting the stanzas and tying the whole poem together.
My final question is, why was Walt Whitman devoted to Abraham Lincoln? I believe he came from a very patriotic family because two of his brothers were named Thomas Jefferson Whitman and George Washington Whitman; maybe his patriotism is the reason.
Some people believe ?O Captain! My Captain!? is too simple and sentimental. I believe the death of a great president is reason enough to be sentimental and Walt Whitman expressing his feelings by simple but artful means was genius.
?About Whitman? Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site and Interpretive Center,
2009, 1/04/09, http://www.waltwhitman.org/
?Chronology of Whitman's Life?, William A. Pannapacker, The Walt Whitman Archive, 2008, 1/04/09, http://www.whitmanarchive.org/biography/chronology.html