He was born May 31, 1819 and grew up in West Hills, Town of Huntington, Long Island. Whitman only received on 6 years of formal education. He was also a farmer, carpenter, essayist, and journalist.
POEMS: I chose the poems I did because they were the poems of his I was most familiar with given the fact that I have worked with both of the poems for a class work assignment.
O Captain! My Captain!
BY WALT WHITMAN
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;
Here Captain! dear father!
The 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.
The theme is the death of Abraham Lincoln. This theme is developed by constant references to the civil war, celebrations, and Lincoln. Whitman begins the poem with "O Captain, My Captain! our fearful trip is done". The "fearful trip" refers to the civil war and "Captain" refers to Lincoln. Then he go on to mention how "the port is near, the bells [he hears], [and] the people [who are] all exulting. Here he talks about have the people are celebrating that the war is over, but adds in that his "captain", Lincoln, has died and cannot celebrate with the rest of the people. For the remainder of this poem Whitman kind of follows this pattern of emphasizing the celebration and reminding the reader his "Captain" is unable to see it.
Song of Myself: 36
BY WALT WHITMAN
Stretch’d and still lies the midnight,
Two great hulls motionless on the breast of the darkness,
Our vessel riddled and slowly sinking, preparations to pass to the one we have conquer’d,
The captain on the quarter-deck coldly giving his orders through a countenance white as a sheet,
Near by the corpse of the child that serv’d in the cabin,
The dead face of an old salt with long white hair and carefully curl’d whiskers,
The flames spite of all that can be done flickering aloft and below,
The husky voices of the two or three officers yet fit for duty,
Formless stacks of bodies and bodies by themselves, dabs of flesh upon the masts and spars,
Cut of cordage, dangle of rigging, slight shock of the soothe of waves,
Black and impassive guns, litter of powder-parcels, strong scent,
A few large stars overhead, silent and mournful shining,
Delicate sniffs of sea-breeze, smells of sedgy grass and fields by the shore, death-messages given in charge to survivors,
The hiss of the surgeon’s knife, the gnawing teeth of his saw,
Wheeze, cluck, swash of falling blood, short wild scream, and long, dull, tapering groan,
These so, these irretrievable.
The theme is the observation of the interaction of different people. There are different classes of people on the vessel from child servants, officers, and the captain. "The captain on the quarter-deck coldly [gave] his orders through a countenance white as a sheet". This is just one of the example of interaction between the passengers on the vessel. Throughout the remainder of the poem Whitman continues to exhibit the interaction between the people, but just changes perspectives.
"O Captain, My Captain" uses a troche hexameter rhythm and "Song of Myself" uses a troche trimeter rhythm.