Denton Jaques Snider.

Lincoln in the Black Hawk war, an epos of the Northwest online

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The Holy Grail American
Containing the new Sacrament,
'Tis the one task of my life's plan,
The service on which I am sent.
The ancient knight essayed the pure —
Pure in his thought and word and deed,
Of Heaven felt he quite secure
If he in life fulfilled that creed.
It was a training excellent,
But to himself alone it bent;
His worth became a narrow pride
Which wrapped him in his little hide,
And on himself his virtues spent,
But somehow he must get outside,
Fling off his own integument.
vSo he will reach his deeper mind
That his true self anew he find


His goodness must in might break forth

And give itself unto the other,

For virtue has not virtue 's worth

Unless imparted to the brother;

Yet even this is not the highest height

Another excellence has dawned in sight.' '

The stranger looked up at the sky

A far-off forelook trembled in his eye.

While he continued slowly speaking

As if the better word he might be seeking :

1 ' Kind charity may turn to very pelf,

Unless it helps the hand to help itself,

Hamstrung would be the human deed

If man should get outright just to his need;

You ask of me my mission to reveal :

I give my life to the common weal,

Not to this single one alone ;

Each has to come and take his own,

By his free will this must be done.

And so my little plot I plant

For all to satisfy their want ;

I give unto the whole community

Each worthy striver's opportunity,

Embracing all of them I can —

I wish it were the genus man —

And if I owned Almighty's sanity,

I had included all humanity. ' '

On vacancy young Lincoln gazes

Trying to catch the far-off fleeting phrases,


And make them speak their meaning out

In some plain words he knows about ;

The stranger then begins again

And fantasies anew his deeper strain:

' ' The leper I have found in many a story,

Whom poets crown with greater glory

Lying in rags along the way

Where he is wont for alms to pray.

How came the leper there, is what I ask,

And with the question dawns the larger task ;

I must look after him before

He lies a beggar at my door,

Nay, I must deem myself a sleeper

Until I stop his being leper. ' '

The man then inward turned with look and

And in another vein began to teach :
1 ' Not barely to the individual —
I seek to give to all;
Yet charity to fallen man
I often have at once to give
That the unfortunate may live :
But shall I not preclude his fall ?
Begin at least I must and can.
'Tis thus I hear my farthest call,
To realize my plan. ' '
The stranger saw himself unsighted,
By his too-youthful auditor,
And so his speech anew he lighted


With flashing tale and metaphor,

Would even turn a rhymed line

To make the point the brighter shine.

But when he wished to show the pith,

He would re-build an olden myth,

Transfigure it with newest fact

So that it gleamed the very act.

Dreamily Lincoln comprehended,

He tried to girdle in his brain

The thought which had so far transcended

The little world of gain and pain.

Gravely the wanderer looked about,

He saw the youth bedimmed with doubt

And deemed this was the time to try

A little bit of his theology :

' ' To give through Christ to the leper faint

Has been the worthy deed of Saint ;

To give your selfhood with your gift,

Is even a still higher lift,

Which hoists you to the presence of the Lord

Who breathes you now his very word:

For you no longer see the leper

But in his stead the universal keeper.

Yet the good Lord, just to be good

Needs you, when he is rightly understood,

As you need him to be your own,

And never by the world o'erthrown.

So dawns an ever-loftier living

New-born of a still mightier giving.

Of life I say you my solution :


I give my own, myself to all,
Both as the master and the thrall,
To build the institution."

Among the bushes flees and disappears

A Eedskin driven by his fears ;

Just there the stranger turned the boat

Saying: "Our journey is now o'er,
An Indian village lies behind this wood,
Where I perchance can do a little good,
Keeping its people from this strife
Which threatens their whole race's life.
Thither I must now quickly pass
Leaving my boat hid in this grass.
Yonder your path you will espy ;
friend, to you I feel me nigh,
But here I have to say good-bye."

They parted. Lincoln's tread was slow,
A world within him rose to overflow ;
Exalted to a new-born vision,
Forecasting what may be his mission,
He looked around in his afterglow
He could not tell why he did so.
But see the shape just over there !
The wanderer floats on the air,
He seems to shift his inner self outside
As if to body he no more is tied,
His head has changed to several faces,


Each gifted with a tint its own

In which lurks character ingrown —

The incarnation of the races.

And yet they all are one in blood

Conrsing its way within that form

In whose one heart they all beat warm

With universal brotherhood.

The racial difference of Nature 's plan

Rounds unified within that man,

Whose members turn a radiant scroll

Gleaming humanity's one soul.

So Lincoln glimpsed his deepest creed

As he that vision saw unroll,

And he forefelt his greatest deed

Viewing transfigured Johnny Appleseed.

Canto {Eentfj,


Time tags along in lazy love,

Sunning himself upon the prairie ;

While turbaned clouds march through the

dome above
With serried order military,
Holding a lofty dress parade
In fleecy folds of white arrayed
Before their lordly luminary;
And so the home-bound soldier's eyes
Behold his regiment up in the skies. .
The Summer seethed with hottest ray,
As lonely Lincoln went his way
Which on the greenery's open face
Around zigzagged a wrinkled trace.
Heaven's kettle filled with molten beams,



The Sun upturned and poured in streams

Which fell a blazing cataract,

Unless a cloudlet stayed his act

A little moment in between,

Patching the plain with shade and sheen.

A blacksmith's shop was Lincoln's soul

The future forging stroke by stroke,

Full both of sparkles and of smoke,

At times there gleamed to him his goal,

And then the soot would make him choke.

The sweetest milk fair Hope unsought

Would pour him from the world of thought;

But soon by some new current stirred

The stuff would turn to sourest curd;

Then just the other way would run his

On bonnyclabber still would rise the cream.

Edging a pretty patch of wood

From home not many miles he stood,

Within whose shade the time he took

To give a backward look;

Relating what he had passed through

Unto himself in pensive view :

1 ' Only three months have I been gone,

And yet the minutes have been drawn

To hours, yea, almost to days,

So full of haps have run the ways,

Entangling me in tortuous maze;

It seems as long as all my former years


As to its close it nears;

I scarce can sleuth myself through its brief

The wheels have run so fast.
My acts in this wee Black Hawk war
Eesound already to me from afar,
They speak a wordless voice of presage,
Which tells me still its message,
I seem in small to pre-enact
What is to Be the largest fact,
In such a world I never moved before,
So full of weird prophetic lore,
Its small events of petty worth
Foreshadow some gigantic birth,
I breathe, methinks, a pictured air
On which I read the future everywhere,
This miniature of Indian strife
Has made me glimpse my entire life,
What I have done, I yet must do,
The past I have still to go through,
The jailor Time handcuffs not me
I slip his fetters to futurity.
But stop, my soul, this mood fictitious,
I know me somewhat superstitious. ' '

So Lincoln stopped presentiment
Though woven in his every bent,
The demon Care he would outfence
By falling back on common sense,
Or jetting forth a little eloquence,


Which might his melancholy buffet,

If just by blowing he could puff it ;

He wandered off in various vein,

But to himself came back again :

"That fugitive slave mother,

Whom I would not permit to be sent back,

Benights my soul with brooding bother;

I have no respite from attack

When two laws start to fight each other;

The first compels me from within

And makes obedience a sin,

The second bids me from without,

And will not suffer me to doubt.

Although I freed the fleeing slave,

Myself I did not save.

And then this case of Indian Loo

With conflict ran me through and through;

I could not bear to see him wronged

By my own people round him thronged;

Though on the march to fight his race

The human I would not efface.

But that which came to me like Fate
Was when I heard the hot debate
That day between the valiant two
Young army officers in blue.
They seemed to split the very nation
Along the lines of their argumentation;
In them the Union fell divided
And fighting with itself two-sided;


That picture haunts me everywhere,

I hear the hurtle in the air,

And see the bluecoats battling there —

Millions have sprung out of those two,

Somehow I seem the center of ado,

And can't escape the spectral hullabaloo."

Then Lincoln cast ahead his look

And sought his pace to hurry,

A.s if to flee from persecuting worry

While gentler lines his semblance took:

"But this is my chief wonderment,

At the right moment word is sent;

There speaks me from beyond somewhence

A messenger of Providence,

He drops down at the turn of danger

As if he were the universe's ranger,

Planting upon his path his seeds

And yet to me much greater are his deeds-

Himself has interwoven all my way

From the first day."

As Lincoln lisped the blessed word,

The rustle of his sword he heard,

Sword of the valiant Eutledges,

Which he had kept through all his stress

Merrily dangling at his side,

And gleaming there ancestral pride;

It seemed to tune a gentle clang,

Soft-voiced as if a maiden sang

Along his path unto his heart

Her loving whisper to impart.


His hand reached for that sword of Rut-
And gave to it a soft caress
Which stirred the brightest memory
Of all his days that had gone by.
But a still smaller voice he heard
Tongued somehow from that speechless

With which his heaving breast could hardly

cope —
It was the voice of hope.

New Salem was not far away
He dreamed another festal day,
Like that on which he had set out
To run his martial roundabout
Just back to where he had begun —
So would the circling deed be done.
But in returning to its primal root
The rounded season brings new fruit;
The Rutledge blade he would restore,
Receiving for it something more.
Upborne he reveries the past
And paints the future coming fast
With all its rainbows arching over,
Sunclad his soul with hope of lover.
Then Lincoln spake unto his brand,
As he in turn its trappings scanned;
He even drew the gleaming blade,
Whereat this little speech he made :


"Glad that I used thee not —
Not once upon a human being —
It would have left on me a blot
To stain thee in my seeing;
With thee is joined my very heart
Coupled in a common joy or smart.
When I thy graceful form unsheathe
A gentle tone it seems to breathe,
Thy tongue tells not to me of war,
But of some happier time by far.
Though here below, it chimes above
And lisps to me the note of love."
That final word when he outspake,
He gave a leap and was awake
Out of his panoramic dreamery,
And now again the world could see
Freed of all freaky fantasy.

Behold, it is familiar ground,

He enters it right at a bound,

Upon Sand Eidge he is now walking,

And finds himself to Uncle Jimmy talking.

Uncle Jimmy Short — 'twas he

Who gave to Lincoln that first steed,

A mettled charger of Kentucky breed,

A worthy mount to lead

His horsed company.

Lincoln let fall in dole his head

As he to Uncle Jimmy said:

"You see me come without your horse,


Though I myself be none the worse ;

Bay Speedwell always did his duty

And did it too with dashing beauty,

He drew the eye and won each heart

The moment he would make a start.

He to his rider was a glory

And equalled any steed of story;

And so that night it came about,

Just after we were mustered out,

Somebody stole him from my sleep,

That loss still makes me weep."

Kind Jimmy comforted sad Abe

Who oozed in tears just like a babe,

Whereat the hearty farmer spake :

"I have another steed which you can take

And to New Salem ride today,

Eeturning as you went away,

Well mounted like a cavalier,

Before the people to appear.

For all the town is turning out

To welcome you in one great shout

The coming hero of the war,

Of soldiering Sangamon the star.

I know there will be an ovation

As if we were the entire nation,

Flocked to receive the President

With artillery's loud compliment;

I too must rally with that throng,

With Captain Lincoln ride along,

And in his company shall muster

Thus I may shine a little from his lustre.' '


So Uncle Jimmy cheered the youth

With the exaggerated truth,

He knew it was without a doubt

That all New Salem would march out

Its Captain Abraham to greet,

Would then escort him down the village

To overlook idyllic Sangamon,
The nymph he often thought upon
The rushing days he had been gone.
The trotters twain sped on the way,
And soon the miles behind them lay;
Yonder they come — a boisterous crowd
Ee-echoes its own huzzahs loud,
It was the spot, it was the shout
Which Lincoln left when he set out.
Now three months gone or more,
All seemed quite as it was before,
E'en to the Hickory Hermitage
Studded with shag-bark trees of every age,
Lincoln around glanced his salute,
While rattling guns began to shoot
Their noisy words upon the air
Well punctuated everywhere
With many a piping boyish toot;
And then a cannon boomed its greeting
Of wavy sounds far down the vale retreating,
Amid the clouds up in the sky
Eeverberations high went rolling by.


Many of Captain Lincoln's company
Had come their chief again to see;
They had been mustered out before,
A month it was and even more,
So that they were already back —
Treading at home the beaten track.
But Lincoln's duty would not let him quit,
Than all the rest he showed more grit,
As private afterwards he twice enlisted
And in his troublous task persisted —
Methinks it was no wonder then —
"You are the best of all us men''
The soldiers shouted in a chorus :
"Come take your place before us."

Meanwhile the Captain looked around

To spy whatever might be found,

He oped his eyesight's keenest sense

Scanning each corner of the fence,

When at his side he felt a jog,

'Twas Mentor Graham, the pedagogue,

Eeady a little speech to make

All for the hero's sake.

But he, the hero, had that moment seen

The only one, the heroine —

Schoolmaster had to stand aside,

And some more talky time abide,

For Lincoln reined his steed in sudden press

Toward where stood both the Rut] edges —

The father and the daughter too —


That was just what he had to do.
The flashing falchion ont he drew,
And waved it round above his head
Until it seemed to cut the air in two:
A maiden smiled upon the view,
Whereat James Rutledge said :
"Put up your sword, my valorous knight,
Without reproach, without affright;
Now let us march to the public square
And hold our tournament of speeching
there.' '

So Lincoln sheathed again his blade

And Uncle Jimmy with him stayed,

The horsemen twain turned up the road,

Before them first the fifer strode —

It was the same old Thomas Cunes

Playing the same old fifing tunes

Which he had fifed for forty dozen moons,

A single thing he had bran-new,

It was the wooden pipe he whistled through,

That former one, in his great zeal,

He struck against a wagon wheel,

Gesturing with it as he spoke,

He thought to deal Black Hawk a stroke;

But the old mouthpiece rolled away,

Escaped destruction on that day;

Through this lead spout he drives his breath

Pumping as if for life and death;

The big drum bellowing from its blows,


The snare-drum snarling through the nose,
Are rhyming in a roaring rune
Timed to the fifer's shrilly tune.
Then through New Salem's single thorough-
All in procession to the Public Square,
The townsmen march with jibe and jam
Faming their hero Abraham;
It was a pompous celebration
As if they were just all creation.
They halt before the Eutledge house,
With cheers the sleepy bluffs arouse,
Which talk with many an echo back
Mocking New Salem's noisy pack.


But see ! mounted again upon a cart
Schoolmaster Mentor has made a start,
Bids silence to that tonguey press
And then the Captain doth address :
"I gave you here a piece of work,
Appointing you election clerk;
I asked if you could write
You said you could indite
Some rabbit tracks upon a paper sheet
And like a rabbit make them fleet.
And so you wrote me all that day;
The leisure you would fill with play,
Telling the people many a story —
That seemed to be your native territory;


Whatever it might be about

The nub was certain to pop out.

'Twas then I read your rising star

To be the people's orator;

Look ! here again the flag I wave

Which once I to your soldiers gave,

Not now its folds flaunt forth defiant,

But furled its lies a sleeping giant,

Ready to wake at country's call,

Whatever may befall;

Aye, twinkling through this Black Hawk War

Another destiny peeps from afar.

But next the statesman's world you are to

Of which you will become the center;
When strikes the moment critical,
You rise o 'er all the man political ;
Now we shall start this bud of Nature
And send you to the Legislature."
The crowd without dissenting stammer
Sent cloudward up a mighty clamor ;
Approving what the speaker spoke,
They clapped their heavy hands in hardy

The soldier has become the candidate,
And turns his way from war to state;
He did not like the spirit military,
To his whole character it ran contrary,
E'en though he thought he had to fight,
And could again perchance be forced to war


To prop with might the higher right,
That uneclipsed shine still its star.

Dimly he now forefelt the goal

Toward which his life must hence unroll;

Again rose up that fleeing slave

Whom he in agony must save ;

To that one act whate'er he may intend,

His future pathway seems to bend;

Though on the outside globe he start

His thought would thither line as to its heart.

Such were the throbbings in his breast,

He felt but little inner rest ;

And still the youth could hardly say

The deepest thing that in him lay;

That image might be an illusion

Dancing amid his brain's confusion.

But Lincoln had to do some speaking,

Though not at present of his seeking;

So with one will-bound look he rallied,

And forth to words he boldly sallied:

"What I have seen this little spell

Would take me a long while to tell;

Only a quarter of a year

Has circled since I left you here,

Yet I have lived an entire life

Me seems, with all its stress and strife;

The total future flowed through it

Though of the present but a little bit;

The dot of time indeed was small


Yet mirrored to me All-in- All,

Should I hold out a thousand ages

Their deeds were written on these few days'

In mind I read that lightning script
But all its words could not be lipped
Though I might speak
This entire week.

And still there is one scene I heard
Of which I might re-say the word;
It was a cleaving fierce debate
Preluding strains of war's estate
Between the North and South;
Though now the fight be only of the mouth,
I fear it will not soon abate.
Two young lieutenants had the wordy battle
In which I heard the muskets rattle
From the far-off upbearing years,
With sorrow bursting into tears.
But now the sword I shall unbuckle,
Glad to be quit of fight ;
Still I to peace shall never truckle
Or buy it with the loss of right.
My heart swings in one strong vibration
Unto the oneness of the Nation,
Whose sections by our fathers mated
Cannot again be separated;
Within my deepest soul I bring
This thought back from my soldiering:
The Union of the States is King."


Whereat again he bared the blade

A South-east gesture too he made;

He heard again the people's cry,

Shouting to him like destiny:

"Use it on him if there is need,

We'll march along in God's speed."

But with that one big gash upon the air,

He scabbarded his sword in loving care,

A look divine of sympathy

He cast that selfsame way

Where he had slashed through earth and sky

Summoning all his skill to slay,

As if the wound he made he sought to heal,

While deeply his own blade he seemed to feel,

His cut came back into his heart again,

He gave the blow, but felt the more the pain.

He took the trappings of the sword

Which was now in its scabbard stored

And held it forth unto the crowd

While to himself he spake out loud :

"I never drew a drop of blood

With this keen weapon's furious slash,

Though I at times quite ready stood

In the last need to give a gash.

I pulled it once in crisis grave,

An Indian not to slay but save,

Although I went to fight against his kin

My first act was to aid a coppered skin;

And then I helped with it a fleeing slave

To keep that liberty



Which you and I possess as free —
Wherein I traced this easy sequel,
That all men are born equal.
That weirdly winning word
I always read upon this sword,
Until it came to be my creed
Which had to rise into my deed. ' '

The crowd was silent at this speech,
They hardly felt its vast outreach,
No murmuring of praise or blame,
Perchance a balancing between the same,
A something seemed what is to be
Wrapped in the robe of far futurity.
Just then Ann Kutledge, fairest of the land,
Trips up with roses nodding in her hand,
And on his blouse she pins their blushes,
While in her cheeks responsive rise the

The maid herself, the soulful flower,
Has reached her richest tint that hour;
In every eye her bloom supreme
Eayed out heart's tenderness agleam;
The multitude, as from above,
Were melted to the thrill of love,
And as one common soul they prayed
At the divine appearance of the maid,
As if a Goddess she had just come down
Eevealing Heaven's beauty to the town.
But in one look was Lincoln recognized
More than all other praise 'twas by him

prized ;


Taller he seemed, on high uprisen,
The world no longer was his prison,
In dreams a while he stood distraught,
But soon again himself upcaught,
And to the maid the sword he raught.
She touched it with a pleasant smile,
Her father stepped up to the front meanwhile
And stately there to Lincoln spake
Before that little human lake
Of faces rippling from the pair
As the one center there.

"This sword ancestral with new story
I shall take back in its old glory;
A fresher lustre now it shows,
And brighter in its honor grows ;
Though hang it on its peg I must
Methinks it was not made to rust,
Time will not let it wear a stain,
For I shall have to take it down again;
If any other foe appear,
Lincoln, you shall find it here,
Sword of the knightly Eutledges,
Which has the priestly power to bless
Its wearer in all strife and stress ;
And as I take it in my hand
It gleams the oneness of our land,
And glowers wrath at separation
Which darkly overhangs our nation;
'Twill never let that be the fact


With Lincoln wielding it in act.
Thus now I emphasize my word:
My daughter here shall thee engird
Again with this same flashing brand
Which hews its way in valor 's hand. '• '
Ann Eutledge gave a blooming smile,
Yet stood and thought a little while,
As if she peered across the future's gap,
And glimpsed in hope some far-off hap
Which Lincoln too somehow involved —
The riddle lay within her soul unsolved.

But Lincoln wore a sober look,
Solemn the train of speech he took :
" Peace, peace! I lip the word in love,
Most precious present from above;
I hope of God that war be not,

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