our fearful trip is done，
The ship has weathered every rack,
the prize we sought is
The port is near,
the bells I hear, the
people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel,
the vessel grim and
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
Rise up —
for you the flag is flung
— for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribboned wreaths
for you the shores
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
My father does not feel my arm,
he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchored safe and sound,
its voyage closed and
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.
Born on May 31, 1819, Walt
Whitman was the second son of Walter Whitman, a housebuilder, and Louisa Van
Velsor. At the age of twelve, Whitman began to learn the printer’s trade, and
fell in love with the written word. Largely self-taught, he read voraciously,
becoming acquainted with the works of Homer, Dante,
and the Bible.
Whitman worked as a
printer in New York City until a devastating fire in the printing district
demolished the industry. In 1836, at the age of seventeen, he began his career
as teacher in the one-room school houses of Long Island. He continued to teach
until 1841, when he turned to journalism as a full-time career.
In 1855, Whitman took out
a copyright on the first edition of Leaves of Grass, which consisted of
twelve untitled poems and a preface. He published the volume himself, and sent
a copy to Emerson in July of 1855. Whitman released a second edition of the
book in 1856, containing thirty-three poems, a letter from Emerson praising the
first edition, and a long open letter by Whitman in response. During his
lifetime, Whitman continued to refine the volume, publishing several more
editions of the book.
At the outbreak of the
Civil War, Whitman vowed to live a “purged” and “cleansed” life. He worked as a
freelance journalist and visited the wounded at New York City–area hospitals.
He then traveled to Washington, D. C. in December 1862 to care for his brother
who had been wounded in the war.
Overcome by the suffering
of the many wounded in Washington, Whitman decided to stay and work in the
hospitals and stayed in the city for eleven years. He took a job as a clerk for
the Department of the Interior, which ended when the Secretary of the Interior,
James Harlan, discovered that Whitman was the author of Leaves of Grass,
which Harlan found offensive. Harlan fired the poet.
Whitman struggled to
support himself through most of his life. In Washington, he lived on a clerk’s
salary and modest royalties, and spent any excess money, including gifts from
friends, to buy supplies for the patients he nursed. In the early 1870s,
Whitman settled in Camden, New Jersey, where he had come to visit his dying
mother at his brother’s house. However, after suffering a stroke, Whitman found
it impossible to return to Washington. He stayed with his brother until the
1882 publication of Leaves of Grass (James R. Osgood) gave Whitman
enough money to buy a home in Camden.
In the simple two-story
clapboard house, Whitman spent his declining years working on additions and
revisions to a new edition of the book and preparing his final volume of poems
and prose, Good-Bye, My Fancy (David McKay, 1891). After his death on
March 26, 1892, Whitman was buried in a tomb he designed and had built on a lot
in Harleigh Cemetery.
Along with Emily
Dickinson, he is considered one of America’s most important poets.