Looking for a book, DVD, CD, or other item? Search our catalog!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Poetry Friday--Mr. Lincoln

Next week, February 12th, marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln is one of the most written about individuals in history, and with the upcoming 200th anniversary, many more books have been released. (I'll highlight a few next Thursday.)

Lincoln has been commemorated in poetry ever since his death. Walt Whitman's "O Captain! My Captain," written immediately after the assassination, came back to haunt Whitman. The poem, not typical of Whitman, was obviously a heartfelt release for him.
O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

The complete poem can be found in Complete Poetry and Collected Prose [811.3 WHI], where you will also find several other Lincoln poems including the also famous, "When Lilacs Last In The Door-Yard Bloom’d."

Whitman was frequently requested to recite "O Captain! My Captain!" and the poem was anthologized many times within his lifetime. Whitman later said, "I'm almost sorry I ever wrote [it]," though it had "certain emotional immediate reasons for being." (The quotation is from a Library of Congress webpage.)

A volume from 1929, titled, Our Holidays in Poetry [808 HAR], has 34 Lincoln poems listed! (Washington only has 24!)

Here's one by Vachel Lindsay:

Would I might rouse the Lincoln in you all,
That which is gendered in the wilderness
From lonely prairies and God's tenderness.
Imperial soul, star of a weedy stream,
Born where the ghosts of buffaloes still dream,
Whose spirit hoof-beats storm above his grave,
Above that breast of earth and prairie-fire--
Fire that freed the slave.

Our children's room collection has a narrative poem by Myra Cohn Livingston, Abraham Lincoln: A Man for All the People: A ballad [J 811 LIV], which deftly weaves Lincoln quotes throughout.

I'll conclude with a little poem by Old Abe himself:

Abraham Lincoln
his hand and pen
he will be good but
god knows When

Wild Rose Reader: The Poetry Friday Roundup Is Here!

Addendum: I just found a notice from the Library of Congress that has a link to a page titled, "Abraham Lincoln and Poetry"! Click here.


  1. Love the last one--when did he write it? It could just as easily be a boyhood joke as an adult's musings.

    Lincoln stuff abounding here in my adopted state of IL, Land of Lincoln!

  2. I saw the date listed as 1824, which would have made Lincoln about 15. It fits a 15 year-old, don't you think? --Diane