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Posts Tagged ‘Walt Whitman’

Today I thought I would share this wonderful poem by Walt Whitman, “O me! O life”. It is in his collection of poems Leaves of Grass, a volume that was first published in 1855 and included just twelve poems. But, Whitman revised and added poems to this volume throughout his life, so the final version of the collection, published in 1892, the year of his death, is very different from the first edition with over 400 poems!



Walt Whitman (18xx-18xx) published "Oh me, oh life" in xxxx.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) was an American poet, whose main collection of poetry is “Leaves of Grass”. This poem, “O me! O life!” appears in that collection.



I have blogged previously about a Walt Whitman poem, namely “O Captain! My Captain!”, a poem about Abraham Lincoln. This poem , “O me! O life!” is much shorter, and more direct.

O me! O life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

Answer:

That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

In the inspirational movie Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams’ character uses this poem to explain to his students why the human race reads and writes poetry.





Which is your favourite Walt Whitman poem?

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If any of you have seen the wonderful film Dead Poets Society, you will be familiar with this poem O Captain! My Captain!by Walt Whitman. The poem is used in the film to dramatic effect, but I won’t spoil it for those of you yet to see the film.


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.

The poem concerns the death of American President Abraham Lincoln, who was assassinated in 1865 by John Wilkes Booth whilst attending the theatre in Washington D.C.


The American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892)


What is your favourite Walt Whitman poem?

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