‘O Captain! My Captain!’ is an allegorical poem written by Walt Whitman. The poem is one of the best-extended allegorical poems. Among the significant poetic concepts and literary devices that make his poem exceptional are the sound of words (a combination of words to reveal a special effect when we read them) and allusion (allegory, referring to something in an indirect manner, without using words that signify that one has made any direct reference). In this essay, “O Captain! My Captain!” shall be reviewed and analyzed.
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Moreover, he extensively incorporates imagery (vivid language that evokes mental images or generates ideas) and rhyme (words having different sounds but with endings that sound alike) to make the poem more allegorical. Extensive use of poetry concepts has made people have an in-depth understanding of the poem in reference to Abraham Lincoln, the American president.
In essence, the allusion in “O Captain! My Captain!” refers to Abraham Lincoln. Whitman wrote the poem in the year 1865, the same year that Lincoln died. Captain is an allusion to the president, Abraham Lincoln, while the ‘ship’ (Whitman 1) is an illusion to the United States. The ‘fearful trip’ (Whitman 1) is an illusion to the troubles that the Americans including the president have to go through during the American Civil War while the phrase ‘some dream that on the deck, fallen cold and dead’ (Whitman 2) is an illusion to Lincoln’s assassination.
This implies that the poem is an illusion to Lincoln’s assassination during the American Civil War, a time when Americans were troubled and feared that they would die because of the war.
We get to know more about the assassination and the era through imagery, which incorporates three senses, sound, touch, and sight. Sight is in the second part of the first paragraph, the second line, ‘O bleeding drops of red’ (Whitman 1). One gets to envision the Captain bleeding and wonder what could have caused the bleeding.
This makes us realize someone hurt the Captain, Lincoln, which leads to the irony in the poem. In the second paragraph, the second line of the first part, there is sound imagery ‘the bugle trills’ (Whitman 2). This makes one imagine how joyful people were. Even though he was dead, people were grateful to Lincoln for helping them end the civil war, and that is why they held him highly. Thus,allegory in “O Captain! My Captain!” is clearly evident
One of the imagery incorporating touch is in the third paragraph, the first part, the second line ‘he has nor pulse not will’ (Whitman 3). This makes one realize the sadness of the poet as well as the people. Someone has to feel Lincoln’s pulse to ascertain that he is dead. It is unbelievable that he will never be the president even though he has helped Americans deal with the war.
The poem makes use of internal rhyme to maintain a steady rhythm. In line three ‘the port is near, the bells I hear’ (Whitman 1), and in the twentieth line ‘from fearful trip, the victor ship’ (Whitman 3), the poem exhibits an internal rhyme that enables the poem to have a joyful, quick and upbeat rhythm. Special syntax structure that features parallelism in lines adds to the tone of the poem
This exhibits excitement, and we get to know that the poet is speaking about how people are excited that they have won the civil war. However, when the poet is talking about sullen and sad moments, he interrupts the poem’s rhythm and redirects the attention of the reader.
To emphasize the shock of finding out that the Captain, Lincoln is dead, the poet makes sure that in each paragraph, the first part has a distinct rhyme scheme pattern. Nevertheless, as the analysis essay on “O Captain! My Captain!” shows, in the second part of each section, the rhyme scheme changes and focuses on the mood that reveals that the captain, Lincoln, is dead. For instance, in the first paragraph, the rhyme is AABB. However, in the second part, the rhyme takes a different direction CDEF
The poet also makes used of words and their sounds to communicate to the audience. In line one and nine, the repetition of the phrase ‘O Captain! My Captain’ (Whitman 2) is used to reveal that the captain’s death, immensely shocked the poet. In addition, at the end of every paragraph, the phrase ‘fallen cold and dead’ (Whitman 2) is repeated.
This emphasizes how difficult it is for people, including the poet, to believe that Lincoln is already dead. The repetition in “O Captain! My Captain!” reveals intense sadness and a hidden wish, the wish that Lincoln was alive. As explained, all the major poetry concepts used by Whitman, including the sound of words, allusion, imagery, and rhyme, helps us to understand the poem better in the form of a poem based on an extended metaphor.
Whitman, Walt. O Captain My Captain. Poetry Foundation, 2011. Web.