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  • The Troubadour

Three Whitman Elegies to Abraham Lincoln

Updated: Aug 19, 2019


Most of us cannot agree on who is the best U.S. President in history. But almost all of us can agree that Abraham Lincoln is one of the greatest, even rivaling the first President.


Walt Whitman, Americas first eminent poet wrote several elegies after Lincoln's assassination on April 14th, 1865. Here are three great poems we should all read. There are themes of loss, Fatherhood and Leadership.



Hush’d Be the Camps To-day


HUSH'D be the camps to-day,

And soldiers let us drape our war-worn weapons,

And each with musing soul retire to celebrate,

Our dear commander's death.


No more for him life's stormy conflicts,

Nor victory, nor defeat—no more time's dark events,

Charging like ceaseless clouds across the sky.

But sing poet in our name,

Sing of the love we bore him—because you, dweller in camps, know it truly.


As they invault the coffin there,

Sing—as they close the doors of earth upon him—one verse,

For the heavy hearts of soldiers.



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.


THIS DUST WAS ONCE THE MAN.

THIS dust was once the man,

Gentle, plain, just and resolute, under whose cautious hand,

Against the foulest crime in history known in any land or age,

Was saved the Union of these States.