O Captain! My Captain!

The way in which young people learn poetry is the subject of the current film, `The Dead Poets Society.' In the movie, an iconoclastic teacher takes a class of restless prep-school adolescents cajoles them into opening their hearts to the language of verse. He urges them to `seize the day' and dares them to address him, `O Captain! My Captain!' The phrase becomes a stirring theme throughout the film as the teacher truly becomes the boys' captain and chief ally against the repressive, conformist policies of the school. The irony is that, after rousing his students to think for themselves, the teacher suffers the intellectual equivalent of Whitman's glorious hero's demise. O Captain! My Captain! 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.

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