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O Captain! My Captain!

O Captain! My Captain!


by Walt Whitman

Stanza 2 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 9-12

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;

  • The sailor comes to the dead captain’s side and begs him to rise again. Because the speaker is addressing someone (or something) who can no longer respond to him, this is known as an apostrophe.
  • And why should the captain re-animate his dead self? Well, the speaker says that all the people on shore are cheering for the captain. 
  • The sailor lists the ways in which the people are celebrating: raising the flag, playing horns, holding flowers, and calling out to the captain. It’s a real hullaballoo.
  • To say that the crowd has “eager faces” is another use of a synecdoche. It’s not just their faces that are eager, really. Their faces are used to represent the whole of their excited attitude toward this captain. They think he’s a righteous dude.

Lines 13-16

Here Captain! dear father!
  This arm beneath your head;
    It is some dream that on the deck,
      You’ve fallen cold and dead.

  • The sailor takes the dead captain in his arms and calls the captain “father,” although the man probably isn’t really his father.
  • Still, the speaker has intense feelings for this man, whose head is on his arm. That’s probably not a relaxing position to lie in, but sadly the captain doesn’t feel the discomfort.
  • The speaker says he must be dreaming. He can’t accept the reality that the captain died just as they reached home.

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