In Whitman's Hand

Poetry Manuscripts

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[Leaf 1 recto]

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                              
March 9 1887                              

This manuscript is dated March 9, 1887.
Editorial note
A signed, dated, handwritten copy of "O Captain! My Captain!," which was published first in 1865. This manuscript was recopied by Whitman, without changes from the version published in 1881, at the request of John Hay, who wrote Whitman in 1887 to request an autograph copy of the poem. A letter dated March 12, 1887 from Hay to Whitman acknowledges receipt of the manuscript and sends a check for thirty dollars in payment. The letter is in the John Hay collection of Brown University's John Hay Library.
O Captain! my Captain!  |  Whitman Papers, Brown University.
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