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.

22 thoughts on “friday feast: we’ve been here before

  1. Abe Lincoln has been my hero since childhood (uh… mine, not his!) I have been to the national memorial in your pics. It’s not too far from where I live. It’s nice to be reminded of him this morning – thanks! :^D


  2. I have not – but I read tons about him when I was in grade school. I think my favorite anecdote was about him and his pet squirrel. I’ve also been to his house in Springfield, IL. I believe that’s where he announced his run for President. We haven’t had one like him since!


  3. Lovely post. I read his poems last year, whilst fishing about for something patriotic or presidential or something. I remember none of the choices being particularly what I wanted or needed, but it made for interesting reading (and knowledge). He’s not the only president to have written poetry, but if I recall correctly, none of them had exactly what I was looking for either. (I think I wanted poetry by a president that pondered the nature of country or the nature of patriotism, to be truthful.)


  4. TadMack says: 🙂
    It is interesting that he wrote poetry, isn’t it? But his speeches themselves had such heft and cadence, I can’t imagine that he wasn’t a poet, in all respects. Thanks for sharing this.


  5. Re: TadMack says: 🙂
    I think next year’s Bicentennial is the perfect time to re-examine all that Lincoln was and symbolizes to our nation. What would he have thought about our present crisis?


  6. What a fabulous post, and I have a book rec for you: I recently read a copy of Deborah Hopkinson’s new picture book, ABE LINCOLN CROSSES A CREEK: A TALL, THIN TALE (INTRODUCING HIS FORGOTTEN FRONTIER FRIEND), ill. by John Hendrix. And I really, really loved it. I want to see if Hendrix can share some art from it (once I’m not having a super-swampy-busy week), so maybe there will be more to come on 7-Imp about it. I really liked it, and I think you will, too.
    I love this (which is from one of your many great links here today):
    “Enjoy life, ere it grow colder—
    Pluck the roses ere they rot.”
    Good advice for any day…


  7. Abraham Lincoln
    Jama, loved your posting! Very timely. Timothy currently has the role of Abraham Lincoln in a touring musical for Blue Apple Players, a theater company who perform original musicals & educational theater programs to youth throughout KY, IN, TN, GA, OH & WV. The newspaper article below includes 2 pics from the show. George & I were thrilled to see them at the Brown Theater in Louisville a few weeks ago — excellent, very touching performance.
    Link to Blue Apple Players’ touring schedule of Abraham Lincoln,The Boy:
    Link to article: Lincoln Musical has a Message for Kids:


  8. Thanks for the rec,Jules. Did I see it on the Cybils list? You have to give a lot of credit to anyone who can create an engaging book on a subject that already has tons about it. I’m reading the new Judith St. George book, one of a series which examines turning points in notable people’s lives.


  9. Re: Abraham Lincoln
    How exciting, Lois! I’ll be sure to follow the links. A musical, you say? I’m trying to picture Abe singing and clicking his heels :). But he did love theatre so much, I’m sure he would be tickled pink to see himself portrayed on stage!


  10. Great post, as always. I had no idea Lincoln was a poet himself, but considering his eloquence, I’m not surprised.
    I’m struck, looking at his boyhood home, by its one tiny window. Amazing that such a far-seeing soul began in such a tiny, dark place.


  11. The building pictured is not his boyhood home; it’s a replica of a period building at the farm site where Lincoln grew up. All that remains of the famous log cabin is the foundation.


  12. Everyone has such great Lincoln stories/books/links. I’m just soaking it all in.
    Thanks for another entertaining, informative, and moving post, Jama. Now I’m picturing you at the Lincoln Memorial…


  13. I remember thinking, as a child, that the Lincoln Memorial was outside by itself on some great hillside. I was quite surprised to finally see it under shelter. The statue is so big, my first glimpse of it was startling. I was also overwhelmed visiting Ford’s Theatre and watching a performance there. I kept staring at that Presidential box.


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