Sunday, May 29, 2016

O Captain! My Captain!

This poem was written by Walt Whitman for Abraham Lincoln at his death. I read it at the funeral of my grandfather, a retired Navy Captain and pilot in WWII and the Korean War.

I found this poem a fitting tribute for my grandfather -- a Harvard-educated renaissance man, lover of poetry, graceful ballroom dancer, a veteran -- dashing and courageous. He introduced me to the poems of Robert W. Service and the stories of Bret Harte.

My father is a veteran, also, and my uncle flew combat air missions in VietNam. David's grandfather and at least one of his great uncles were veterans, as well. The USS Loeser (pronounced LOH-zer) was named after David's "Uncle Art," who was killed in WWII.

On Memorial Day we remember those who died in war. And by extension, it seems right to remember those who are and were willing to die in war.

Soldiers and farmers are frequently given as examples for believers in Scripture. I am blessed to have both in my family.

(This copy from Poetry Foundation website):

O Captain! My Captain!

Related Poem Content Details

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! 
                            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.

Source: Leaves of Grass (David McKay, 1891)

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