A President to Remember
America came to a standstill; the valiant sixteenth president was assassinated while watching a play, leaving everyone devastated. This devastation fed the creative minds of writers in the United States. Specifically, Walt Whitman and Ralph Emerson wrote pieces honoring Abraham Lincoln because of his passing. Whitman wrote “O Captain! My Captain!”, an elegy that conveys how dumbfounded he was about Lincoln’s death using a metaphor that is constant throughout the poem. Emerson’s speech was presented at Abraham Lincoln’s funeral and it expresses how he was an extraordinary man that deserves to be remembered in a positive manner although his assassination was difficult to accept. “O Captain! My Captain!” and “Abraham Lincoln” both demonstrate a mournful and celebratory tone through metaphorical words and phrases the authors used throughout the pieces.
Since Whitman and Emerson used metaphorical phrases that create a mournful tone in their pieces, a deeper meaning can be perceived and their writing is more powerful. For example, in the following lines, he states,“My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse no will. The ship is safe and sound its voyage closed and done. From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won!”(Whitman, lines 18-20). Throughout the elegy, Whitman refers to the president of his time as the captain and as his father. He also referred to the country as the ship. Not only that but the fact that he used the analogy throughout the whole poem conveys a deeper meaning; the noble president was a figure that molded him into who he has become because of his beliefs and actions. This symbolizes that he had a deep respect for Lincoln and looked up to him as the president. Mournful metaphorical phrases are also used in the eulogy when Emerson says,”What an occasion was the whirlwind of war. Here was a place for no fair-weathered sailor; the new pilot was hurried to the helm in a tornado”(Emerson, paragraph 3). Like Whitman, Emerson compared Lincoln to a sailor in a boat analogy. Specifically, Emerson describes Lincoln as no fair weathered sailor. This means that he stuck around even when the going got tough. He was the ‘pilot’ of the plane; he drove the country to where it needed to be and helped the people every step of the way. The Civil War, or tornado as Emerson calls it, threw America every which way with every devastating event. Emerson also states in the speech, “Step by step he walked before them- the thought of their very minds articulated by his tongue”(Emerson, paragraph 3). This excerpt from Emerson’s eulogy signifies that Abraham Lincoln’s passing was difficult to accept for him and other Americans because he was such a major influence on them. Abraham Lincoln was an outstanding man. He always respected the people’s wishes and did what was best for everyone, resulting in the end of the civil war conflict. With that in mind, it seems obvious that his sudden death was devastating. Metaphorical phrases can add a lot to writing and these two authors used them to the fullest. These representative phrases Whitman and Emerson used really stressed the mournful tone they were expressing in their pieces.
Because celebratory metaphorical phrases were also used in “O Captain! My Captain!” and “Abraham Lincoln”, the content is more powerful and has a deeper meaning than that that shows on the surface. To show that Lincoln was a man to be celebrated, Whitman wrote,”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”(Whitman, lines 2-3). After the American people began to get over the fact that Lincoln was gone, they realized that he was, and still is, a man to be celebrated along with his accomplishments. In this particular excerpt, Whitman used metaphorical phrases such as port, rack, and prize. The port is where the ‘ship’ wants to be after the end of the war and a rack is a mass of wind driven clouds. By saying ‘the ship has weather’d every rack,’ Whitman means that America has persevered through some extremely rough times. This perseverance paid off because they won the war; the prize they sought was won. In the elegy, celebratory phrases were also used when Whitman wrote, “Rise up, for you the flag is flung, for you the bugle trills. For you bouquets and wreaths for you the shores-a-crowding”(Whitman, lines 10-11). The people started to celebrate him and revere him since he had done so much for the progression of the country. They hung wreaths and played instruments, all for Lincoln. The people came together, they put up their flags at half mast, all to honor him. In Emerson’s speech, he shows that the people realized they needed to celebrate him.”Yes but that first despair was brief: the man was not to be mourned… acclamations of praise for the task he accomplished burst into songs of triumph”(Emerson, paragraph 2). Lincoln had many qualities that allowed him to free the U.S. from the Civil War. With all the work and skills he possessed, he helped put the country on the right before his death. That alone is an extraordinary reason for him to be remembered in a positive light. As previously stated, Abraham Lincoln was a man to be remembered which is shown throughout “O Captain! My Captain!” and “Abraham Lincoln”. Metaphorical phrases in the elegy and speech created a celebratory tone as well as a mournful one. This emphasises the emotion and helps the reader view know the authors felt about Abe’s assassination.
In final analysis, The poem and the eulogy both have metaphorical phrases that are celebratory and mournful. The mournful phrases emphasise a sorrowful and devastated tone; Lincoln’s death was extremely shocking. On the other hand, Celebratory words and phrases signify that and he was not a man to be mourned because of who he was and what he had accomplished for the U.S.. Although his assassination was devastating, people soon started celebrating him because of these accomplishments.