The tone sounds cheerful as he says that from

The
first stanza begins the metaphor of the ship with the speaker calling out for
his Captain in a celebratory tone. The speaker sounds like he is a part of his
Captain’s crew and abroad his ship. The Captain of the ship is presumed to be
Abraham Lincoln given that a Captain and President are both positions of
leadership. In the first lines, the speaker’s tone sounds cheerful as he says
that from their “fearful trip” the “prize they sought is won” (2). When
taking a look at the context of when this poem was written, the “fearful trip”
the “ship” has just gone through is the American Civil War (2). This line also
shows that since the speaker is celebrating their victory, the speaker is in
bias of the Union and not the Confederacy. Here the patriotism is already
beginning to be heard in the speaker’s voice as he is expressing his pride
having won the “prize” (2). His tone expresses the joyfulness of gaining
victory just as the people in support of the Union at the time, like Whitman,
were when having won the war. The “ship” is a metaphor for the United States as
a whole that has “weather’d every rack” or in other words, overcome the
obstacles the war brought about (2). The first couple lines create the image of
the ship appearing to still be in sail but very close to reaching the “port”
where “people are exulting” (3). The country is near wrapping up the war
officially and those in support of the Union are rejoicing over their victory. Within
the same first stanza there is a sudden shift in tone with the repetition of “O
heart! heart! heart” (5). The speaker sounds as though his heart is in a lot of
pain for the reason that on the ship’s deck, the speaker’s Captain has “fallen
cold and dead” (7-8). Having learned that the speaker’s Captain has died, the
line’s repetition of “heart” sound as if the speaker’s grieving heart in much
pain. The poem at this point is alluding to President Abraham Lincoln’s
assassination which brought about much grief.

            The metaphor continues through the
second stanza as the speaker’s mournful tone is grieving his Captains death
even as the pride of their victory grows. The second stanza shares the lines of
the first stanza with “O Captain! my Captain,” however, this time the lines
sound like the speaker is lamenting rather than celebrating upon the death of
his Captain. The speaker desperately wants his Captain to “rise up and hear the
bells” and see how the “flag is flung” for him (9-10). After having
successfully completing the war, Lincoln was taken away too soon to see how
much the country appreciated his guidance. The speaker’s mournful tone shows
how greatly he respects his Captain and how badly he wishes he were still alive
to continue to guide his people. The images of “the shores a-crowding” show how
his supporters were there to celebrate him as they anticipate the future with
him leading their country into a better state (11). The stanza emphasizes the
patriotism that their leader has stirred up in his people just having lost his
life. While the people celebrate, the speaker is still in mourning. The speaker
illustrates his close bond with his Captain by calling him his “dear father” as
he expresses his disbelief in this situation as “some dream” that his Captain
has fallen “cold and dead” (13-16). The word choice of “father” shows just how
much respect he had for his Captain (13). Fathers are figures that are treated
with respect. The respect in his tone when calling his Captain his “dear
father” shows the reverence that exists for their leader (13).

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            The metaphor comes to a close in the
final stanza as the grief from the speaker continues yet the same patriotism
remains. The speaker’s tone sounds more heartbroken at this point. The speaker
doesn’t call out for his Captain anymore now that it has become clear that he
is dead. His “lips are pale and still” and he “has no pulse nor will” (17-18).
At this point, the speaker is coming to accept that his “father,” the person he
admires, is gone. With the acceptance of his death, comes the end of the ship’s
voyage as it’s “anchor’d safe” now (19). 
Abraham Lincoln brought the country to a safer state and couldn’t live
long enough to help his new unified country grow and prosper. It is reminded
again that amidst the loss of a beloved figure that the ship is the “victor” that
“comes in with object won” (20). The patriotism is still there in the people
celebrating their victory. At the same time, it’s a sorrowful moment because
the one who brought them to this victory isn’t there to celebrate with them.
The speaker encourages the people to continue “exhault” and “ring O bells” in
celebration as he stays with his dead Captain (21). He wants his Captain’s
followers to persevere in his honor.  The
poem concludes with the speaker saying that he is still “with mournful tread”
as he is hit heavily with grief over the loss of his leader (22). The speaker
speaks for those who are still grieving over the tragic loss of President
Abraham Lincoln. Although there is celebration occurring, people’s hearts are
broken. The poem ends melancholically at the loss of a country’s great
president but still keeps the sense of patriotism going.