O Captain! My Captain!

Walt Whitman wrote that poem in 1865 in aching response to the death of Abraham Lincoln. It is both joyous and heartbreaking, a celebration and a dirge. It has been repurposed many times, but it was crowned in the 1989 film Dead Poets Society with Robin Williams. I like that film, but I’ve never really loved it – except for that last scene. The whole movie leads up to it: students defying convention and misdirected authority, with desktops underfoot. “O Captain! My Captain!” And Robin Williams’ face, so kind and so proud of his wrested charges, captures that closing moment perfectly.

Such a life captured for eternity on film is a good thing.

Mr. Williams made a conscious, painful decision to leave us today. I do not judge him or his motives, except to say that I believe it was rightly his choice to make. I do not believe he rests in peace, or in torment; I believe his consciousness is no more. But I’m so happy with the legacy he left us. Thank you, my Captain, fallen cold and dead.

6 thoughts on “O Captain! My Captain!

  1. Well, now I’m crying for the fifth time today—all since learning of Robin Williams’ painful decision. I agree that it is his decision to make but so sad that life/body chemistry could lead both to his comedic brilliance as well as his sad ending.


    • Every time I hear “Oh Captain, My Captain”, I get choked up. I have never felt so sad about an actors death. “Dead Poets Society” is one of my absolute favorites. But then I watch him do a comedy skit and feel better. He was so funny in “Mrs. Doubltfire and “Aladin”. I can’t imagine the pain he must have been in to do this. Makes you wonder if all the comedy was trying to hide all the hurt.


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