The speaker of Whitman’s poem is a crew member on a ship that’s just survived a dangerous voyage. This fact alone suggests two things. First, the speaker is male, since only men were allowed to crew ships in the nineteenth century. Second, the speaker likely hasn’t reached middle age, since only younger men tended to have the fortitude to survive the exhaustion of life at sea. Other than that, the speaker would appear to be an ordinary man, one who is fiercely loyal to his captain—so loyal that he feels devastated in the wake of the man’s death. Of course, it’s important to recall that the poem’s conceit of a ship returning from an ocean voyage serves as an extended metaphor for the United States at the end of the Civil War. In this light, the speaker might best be understood as an ordinary American citizen. This man is motivated by a strong sense of patriotism that is aligned with the ideology of the Northern states that made up the Union. As such, the fierce loyalty he feels for his “captain” symbolizes a patriotic dedication to the leader of the Union: President Abraham Lincoln.