O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The captain in the poem is an extended metaphor for Abraham Lincoln, who as president is the captain of the ship that is the United States.
The national metaphor continues, describing the Civil War as a “rack,” or storm, that has “weather’d” the ship, but is now over: “fearful trip is done.”
The poem was made famous more recently through the movie Dead Poets Society, in which Mr. Keating’s students call him “Captain” in this climactic scene:
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