“O Captain!  My Captain!”

“O Captain! My Captain!”

Written by Webmaster

Topics: Inspiration, Movies

In this masterfully well played scene from the movie, Dead Poets Society, Williams’ students pay tribute to him a most unique way. Throughout the film, Robin Williams’ character, English literature instructor John Keating takes his students on a progressive journey of personal growth and character development. In earlier separate scenes, he has them stand on their desks and look around to see the world with “a different perspective,” and after reading a passage from Walt Whitman, challenges them to call him “O Captain! My Captain!” if they so dared. “Seize the day,” if you so dare!

While many are familiar with these two words, twice repeated, “O Captain! My Captain!” very few are admittedly familiar with the context of the entire poem which follows, written in 1865 by Walt Whitman. Its imagery, analogy and use of metaphor are shockingly similar to the poetic tragedy suffered by William’s character, John Keating, as the father figure for his classroom legion.

Similar to the “O Captain, My Captain” quote is the “Carpe Diem” quotation. While we all have come to know the literal translation of the words as “Seize the day,” few may remember the words Williams’ character speaks after instructing his students to, “Seize the day!”

“Make your lives extraordinary!”

O Captain! My Captain!
by Walt Whitman

O Captain my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weathered 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 ribboned 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 anchored 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.

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