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
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.
--Walt Whitman, on the assassination of President Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was shot on April 14, 1861, and died the next morning without ever regaining consciousness.
He was ugly, clumsy, and often depressed. His voice was high-pitched, and he spoke with a backwoods accent. Almost everything he knew he taught himself through books and study of other people. His father resented the boy's intelligence and often beat him for reading. But he had a dry wit, a powerful intellect, and a heart brimming with compassion, and he learned at length to transcend some of his prejudices. He wrote graceful, muscular prose, and he was a notably loving father to his four sons.
My own father was, God knows, no saint. But he did give me a reverence for Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was the loving, playful, kind father I never had. Tonight, almost a century and a half after he lay dying with a bullet in his brain, I remember and honor him.
*Or possibly angels. I did read that book.