po·e·sy n. pl. po·e·sies 1. Poetical works; poetry. 2. The art or practice of composing poems. 3. The inspiration involved in composing poetry. [Middle English poesie, from Old French, from Latin posis, from Greek poisis, from poiein, to create; see kwei-2 in Indo-European roots.]

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

May 31 - Walt Whitman

American poet Walt Whitman May 31, 1819 - March 26, 1892

Banned in Boston* and other cities because his books of poetry were considered obscene, offensive, pornographic by many straight-laced citizens of the era, he was a free spirit, original thinker, and revered by many--both while he lived and after he died.

*And of course sales went up, as they always do when this happens.

On April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. In honor of the beloved president, Whitman wrote the beautiful poem O Captain! My Captain!

I will admit the first time I heard this poem was in the movie Dead Poets Society. And I'll further admit that I wasn't familiar with the poet's name until on an episode of the television series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman the righteous townfolk wanted to burn his books.

I often wondered why I had never heard anything about or by this great poet. Hmm, I went to parochial schools. Maybe that explains it?

Some poems by Walt Whitman

O Captain! My Captain!

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weathered 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 ribboned 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 anchored 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.


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?

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


Now, dearest comrade, lift me to your face,
We must separate awhile—Here! take from my lips
this kiss;

Whoever you are, I give it especially to you;
So long! —And I hope we shall meet again.