Janet's thread

A weblog, mostly about knitting but other topics appear

Abraham Lincoln and My Grandmother’s Poem January 24, 2011

I have been writing about my grandmother’s little book of poetry, Late Flowers, written when she was in her 70’s.  The poem I want to quote today is her tribute to Abraham Lincoln.  Having lived overseas for so long I had kind of forgotten my U.S. history or maybe my history lessons slipped to the back of the queue in my brain.  Whatever, now being back in the U.S. on a more permanent basis I am refreshing and renewing my interest in matters historical on this side of the Atlantic.  I recently read the book Manhunt, the 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killers, by James L. Swanson.  One thing that struck me about the book was the fervor with which people reacted to the Assassination.  Abraham Lincoln is an icononic figure in U.S. history but in part it was the fact that he was assassinated that elevated him to such a prominent position.  Now I find a poem written by my grandmother long after Lincoln’s time.  My grandmother was only 2 years old when John Wilkes Booth fired that shot.  But in less than 20 years, in 1882, she married a man who had served his country faithfully in the U.S. Civil War and would have been a Lincoln supporter.  So in that way, by marriage, she was certainly a woman of that era.  Here is her tribute, written in the late 1930’s.


Of the soil a son, yet apart from man he stood,

Although to hew the wood and plow the field

His hands he trained.  His neighbours saw in him

Naught but the country rustic akin to them.

They did not see behind that thoughtful brow

The soul of beauty and the brain of power,

Which as the slow years wound along their way

Urged him to read and study, reaching ever

To those high realms of which the common soul

Knows not, nor cares.  Then came the time of stress.

The man arose and into those brown hands

Received the Nation’s cares.  Prepared was he

By years of toil and grief and by the greatness of his soul

For this vast trust, and through the darkest time

The Nation e’er has seen, he strode upon his way

Ever faithful to his duty, striking the shackles

From slavery’s bleeding limbs; turning ever

At call of human misery to give his aid.

In all the earth before was ever such a man?

He had the understanding of the warrior

Who conquers all upon the battlefield;

He had the wisdom of the statesman who can guide

The Ship of State through perils of the storm,

And over and above his courage and his lore

He had the love and sympathy for all mankind

Which, stronger than his other gifts, will ever

Bind our souls to him in love and veneration.

His work is done.  We know him now and lay

Upon his brow the hero’s laurel.  Ever his life,

So simple and so great, shall be to us a call

To do and dare and suffer for the right.