Thursday, October 15, 2009

O Captain

Amidst the arguments over the rights to TV coverage of the rugby world cup one thing is obvious – the nature of the Key administration. Ministers have control of their fiefdoms and there is often a lack of co-ordination. Helen Clark was criticised for her tight control. Key is vulnerable to the opposite criticism. He has a charming habit of disarming criticism by being honest. But in time we will weary of it.

I’ve finished watching the last three episodes of the DVD series, The American Civil War. A great series. Very moving. I’ve learnt a lot about the psyche of that powerful people. And what a tragedy the assassination of Lincoln was. He had the greatness and the goodness to have helped reconcile the two camps. I recall reading Jan Morris’s biography and her conversion to hero-worship of this man.

The series often quoted poet Walt Whitman also an admirer of Lincoln. Whitman worked as a volunteer nurse in Union hospitals. I’ve read his account of the experience. He wrote this poem on Lincoln’s assassination.

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; 10
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; 20
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Walt Whitman

I’ve also finished reading The Fever Trail. An interesting read. Richard Spruce seems to me one of the unsung British heroes of the 19th century. The Dutch did better than the English at harvesting the bark from the cinchona tree.

There are fledglings in the thrush nest in the camellia outside my bedroom/study window. When I pulled back the curtain this morning the bird was just landing with a worm in its beak.

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