Sing of the love we bore him
Today is the 150th anniversary of the death of Abraham Lincoln. He was shot on April 14 (only five days after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox), but he lingered until the morning of the 15th.
The death of President Abraham Lincoln had a profound impact on the poet Walt Whitman and his writing. It is the subject of one of his most highly regarded and critically examined pieces, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” (1865-1866) and one of his best-known poems, “O Captain! My Captain!” (1865-1866). Whitman also delivered (sporadically) annual public lectures commemorating Lincoln’s death beginning in April 1879.
Here is the first poem Whitman wrote about Lincoln’s death.
(May 4, 1865)
HUSH’D be the camps to-day,
And soldiers let us drape our war-worn weapons,
And each with musing soul retire to celebrate,
Our dear commander’s death.
No more for him life’s stormy conflicts,
Nor victory, nor defeat—no more time’s dark events,
Charging like ceaseless clouds across the sky.
But sing poet in our name,
Sing of the love we bore him—because you, dweller in camps,
know it truly.
As they invault the coffin there,
Sing—as they close the doors of earth upon him—one verse,
For the heavy hearts of soldiers.
Let’s all take a moment to ponder our fallen president and the great national calamity that was his death.