Casabianca by Felicia Dorothea Hemans: Summary and Analysis

Casabianca was first published in 1826 which is also popularly known as 'The Boy stood on the fire Burning Deck'. This poem is about the actual incident that happened in 1798 during the Battle of the Nile where Casablanca, a 12-year old boy, the son of Luce Julien Joseph was the commander of a warship.

Felicia D. Hemans (1793-1835)

The speaker in the poem narrates that Casabianca was standing alone on the board of the ship which was already caught by fire. The flames of the fire were rising all around him, but he was so brave that he did not move an inch and did not have a single sign of fear in his face. He was so loyal and obedient to his father and responsible to his duty that he first wanted to take permission to save himself from the fire though he did not know the fact that his father was dead already down in the ship. He asked for the permission many times and also asked if he had fulfilled his duty properly. But he did not get the answer as his father was dead. The voice of Casabianca was drowned by the sounds of gunpowder and shots of the guns. The flames did not wait, it reached to the boy’s head and still the brave boy was asking to his father if it was necessary to him to stay there. Then the fire surrounded him from all the sides and a loud burst was heard. Nothing is visible and his dead body was not found. The death of the bravest commander, obedient and disciplined son was a matter of glory to the nation.

In the poem Casabiance, Hemans deals with the story of faithful son who dies obeying the command of the father. A young boy of thirteen relies on his father, he rather lets the fire swallow him than turn back on his words. He does not know that his father is dead, so he keeps asking permission at the moment of dying. The poem represents honesty, innocence and responsibility building up inside a young mind. The child happens to be a loyal son, no doubt there, but the pure innocence doesn’t save him from the raging fire.

Young Casabianca’s happiness does not seem to lie upon is father alone, not even when he finds himself in the mortal peril, he does not flee but burns himself for his father’s sake. The poet worries that these faithful heart was destroyed in a fire. He dies but does not go against filial responsibility. He has been perished, but what appears to look like death is not death at all. Responsibility and love glorify such people even after they leave their bodies forever. Sooner or later you have to die, so it is worthy to die while carrying out the duties and responsibilities than an isolated death.

Casabianca is a wonderful poem, which is a tale of loyalty and duty. The lyrics are great. The rhyme is unforced, and the rhythm is perfect. The author seemed to relate it well and kept it, so it was very easy to understand. Casabianca's story is indeed an epitome of heroism, obedience, bravery and sacrifice, but there is other side to it, if he could run and do something to save his life by using his intelligence. He would have saved himself and lived up to his father's expectations and that was definitely better, and more admirable.

Though the poem directly and openly praises the young Casabianca, it implicitly scorns the war and its negative consequences. This real incident took place on August 1, 1798 when the French and English had a war. The French ship was caught on fire, all the Frenchmen ran away and left the ship, but the young boy refused to leave the ship saying that his father ordered him not to leave the ship. He did not go against the order of his father and died when the ship exploded. The poet here indirectly criticizes the war for the death of such a young obedient heart.

Related Topic

Felicia Dorothea Hemans: Biography