When the Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed

4 April 2015
An examination of the rationale behind Walt Whitman’s writing of this poem.

This paper presents three reasons that the poet wrote the poem. Firstly, he used the writing of the poem as a way to work through his grief and sadness over Lincoln’s death. Second, Whitman wrote the poem as a way to pay tribute to the life of the great American president, Lincoln. Third, Whitman wrote the poem to reach out to Americans who had lost their president, and to attempt to help to ease their pain at this loss. Each of these reasons are examined as they relate to the poem.
“One of his finest works, the poem is a tribute to the life and death of Abraham Lincoln. The poem appeared in Whitman’s 1881 edition of Leaves of Grass. Of the many poems that were written about the assassination of President Lincoln, Whitman’s When the Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed may be the most famous. It is more abstract, and much longer than the well known “O, Captain! My Captain!”. However, the poem has a resounding emotional impact that the more conventional and accessible poem “O, Captain! My Captain!”.”

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