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September 2011


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Oct. 24th, 2008

poetry friday

friday feast: we've been here before

"A house divided against itself cannot stand."
Abraham Lincoln


I've been having a great time this month reading about our Presidents and First Ladies, and testing out some of their favorite recipes.

There are lots of new children's books about Lincoln out this year, and more coming out in 2009, just in time for the Bicentennial Celebration. As I reacquainted myself with his life and accomplishments, I couldn't help but get that feeling of
deja vu.

Some two hundred years later, we are looking yet again at a man from humble beginnings, with a gift for oration, who established his political career in Illinois. And sadly, some of the old wounds that divided the country back then have resurfaced, making Lincoln's words even more poignant.

Living Historical Farm building, Lincoln National Boyhood Memorial, Lincoln City, Indiana

What I didn't realize until recently was that Lincoln wrote poetry along with his great speeches. He loved the theatre, especially Shakespeare, and counted Robert Burns and Lord Byron among his favorites. According to the Lincoln Bicentennial website, "Mortality," by William Knox, was Lincoln's favorite poem. One of his earliest surviving rhymes, written when he was a teenager, goes:

Abraham Lincoln is my nam[e]
And with my pen I wrote the same
I wrote in both hast and speed
and left it here for fools to read

His most serious poetry was written in 1846, and includes, "My Childhood-Home I See Again," "The Bear Hunt," and "The Suicide's Soliloquy." They are testament, along with his speeches, of an enlightened intellect and a God-given talent, even more awe-inspiring considering he was self-educated.

I can't help but think that if not for Lincoln, my Presidential candidate of choice might not have been able to even pursue a formal education, let alone run for public office. So today, I salute President Lincoln and give thanks for the power of words, which we often take for granted or misuse. Surely the best way to utilize this gift, and the freedom we have to implement it, is to bring people together, not divide them. 

During Lincoln's tenure, America was on the brink of unraveling beyond repair. This election proves that we have made great progress, but our work has really just begun. Let's not forget the foundation upon which our nation was built, as we begin the arduous task of revitalizing America from the ground up.

And, economic crisis aside, I am humbled to be able to witness this milestone in American history.

by Berton Bellis, 1919

Remains of the foundation of Lincoln's log cabin, Lincoln National Boyhood Memorial

Down thru endless ages,
Came a soul from others apart --
Incased in a body of awkward appearance;
But in a true heavenly made heart.
He was born in a hewed log cabin,
Grew up simple and plain;
This life -- on earth a sacrifice,
To remove from liberty a stain.

No pen can give him the credit --
No words the good of his mind;
But his love is forever burning,
In the hearts of all human kind.
The world now bows to his honor,
And hail this emancipator's name;
Columbia is proud of his memory,
He lives in everlasting fame.

His life of bitter sorrow,
Hard work and saddened tears,
Has made happy millions of humans,
And will for the future years.
O, Father, hear us in heaven!
May his reward increase ten-fold!
To repay for the great good he did us,
While his clay on earth lies cold.

His life is a lesson for the living,
Shows democracy is strength and sand,
That a good mind no matter how humble,
Can spread peace and love o'er the land.
"In God we trust" -- our nation all --
Our reward was grand and kind,
For we'll always live and never fall!
By following his wonderful mind.

For a great list of poems written by and about Lincoln, click here.

Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is at Kelly Herold's Big A little a.