Y childhood's home I see again,
And sadden with the view;
And still, as memory crowds my brain,
There's pleasure in it, too.
O memory! thou midway world
'Twixt earth and paradise,
Where things decayed and loved ones lost
In dreamy shadows rise,
And, freed from all that's earthly, vile,
Seem hallowed, pure and bright,
Like scenes in some enchanted isle
All bathed in liquid light.
As dusky mountains please the eye
When twilight chases day;
As bugle notes that, passing by,
In distance die away;
As, leaving some grand waterfall,
We, lingering, list its roar-
So memory will hallow all
We've known but know no more.
Near twenty years have passed away
Since here I bid farewll
To woods and fields, and scenes of play,
And playmates loved so well.
Where many were, but few remain
Of old familiar things,
But seeing them to mind again
The lost and absent brings.
The friends I left that parting day,
How changed, as time has sped!
Young childhood grown, strong manhood gray;
And half of all are dead.
I hear the loved survivors tell
How nought from death could save,
Till every sound appear a knell
And every spot a grave.
I range the fields with pensive tread,
And pace the hollow rooms,
And feel (companion of the dead)
I'm living in the tombs.
But here's an object more of dread
Than ought the grave contains--
A human form with reason fled,
While wretched life remains.
Poor Matthew! Once of genius bright,
A fortune-favored child--
Now locked for aye, in mental night,
A haggard mad-man wild.
Poor Matthew! I have ne'er forgot,
When first, with maddened will,
Yourself you maimed, your father fought,
And mother strove to kill;
When terror spread, and neighbors ran,
Your dange'rous strength to bind;
And soon, a howling crazy man
Your limbs were fast confined.
How then you strove and shrieked aloud,
Your bones and sinews bared;
And fiendish on the gazing crowd,
With burning eye-balls glared--
And begged, and swore, and wept and prayed
With maniac laught(ter?) joined--
How fearful were those signs displayed
By pangs that killed thy mind!
And when at length, tho' drear and long,
Time smoothed thy fiercer woes,
How plaintively thy mournful song
Upon the still night rose.
I've heard it oft, as if I dreamed,
Far distant, sweet, and lone--
The funeral dirge, it ever seemed
Of reason dead and gone.
To drink it's strains, I've stole away,
All stealthily and still,
Ere yet the rising God of day
Had streaked the Eastern hill.
Air held his breath; trees, with the spell,
Seemed sorrowing angels round,
Whose swelling tears in dew-drops fell
Upon the listening ground.
But this is past; and nought remains,
That raised thee o'er the brute.
Thy piercing shrieks, and soothing strains,
Are like, forever mute.
Now fare thee well--more thou the cause,
Than subject now of woe.
All mental pangs, by time's kind laws,
Hast lost the power to know.
O death! Thou awe-inspiring prince,
That keepst the world in fear;
Why dost thos tear more blest ones hence,
And leave him ling'ring here?
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
Abraham Lincoln was for the most part a self educated man and so his command of the English language is impressive for its straighforwardness and reason. In fact, he never spent more than twelve months in a classroom of any kind. Unlike his company in the collective of American Presidents who have had Ivy League schooled speech writers as a source of inspirational words at their fingertips and go on to have ghost writers do tell all
books that supplement their retirement, Lincoln wrote all of his own speeches as far as I know. I remember having to memorize his Gettysburg Address
in fifth grade and learned that it was hastily written on the back of an envelope on Nov. 19, 1863 aboard a train as he traveled to the devastated battlefield. It marks the high point in his record of American eloquence. He also left a couple of dozen more or less complete poems that are neither polished nor original. They are a blunt and steady, well-suited to his way of thinking; reflective and in a plain spoken light.
Written on February 25, 1846, he submitted them to a friend by the name of Andrew Johnston on September 6, 1846 and asked him to publish them anonymously in the Quincy, Illinois Whig on May 5, 1847. He had added Part II, about a childhood friend by the name of Matthew Gentry, sometime after originally composing Part I. Enclosing a letter to Johnston, Lincoln explains:
"He is three years older than I, and when we were boys we went to school together. He was rather a bright lad, and the son of the rich man of our poor neighborhood. At the age of nineteen he unaccountably became furiously mad, from which condition he gradually settled down into harmless insanity. When, as I told you in my other letter I visited my old home in the fall of 1844, I found him still lingering in this wretched condition. In my poetizing mood I could not forget the impression his case made upon me."
When Lincoln was around 37 years old he paid a visit to one of his childhood cabins on Pigeon Creek in Gentryville
. With the roof collapsed and the chimney toppling the cabin was in a sad state of disrepair. He also visited his mother's and his sister's graves. It was this trip in 1844 that gave rise to his meditations in this poem. Twelve years later he was elected to the US Presidency and went on to draft the The Emancipation Proclamation
on January 1, 1863.
Poetry by Abraham Lincoln:
Public Domain text of the poem taken from the Poet’s Corner: