George William Bell.

Abraham Lincoln; a poetical interpretation (Volume 2) online

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^brairam ^Hintoln

One hundred, twenty-five copies printed, each numbered and

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gibratam Lincoln

This photograph was printed especially for this volume
direft from the original negative, made from life early in

1 86 1 , by C. S. Germon, in Springfield, Illinois
The original negative is preserved in the colleftion of

Frederick Hill Meserve, Esq., New York City







y-f -



To my parents

Samcg ^. atiD JHarp C. ^ell

highest exemplars of
true fatherhood and motherhood


Foreword . . . . . . ii

Part One -The Shaping Current . . 19

The Lifting of the Veil

The Freeing of the Spirit

The Coming of the Races

The Welding of the Parts
Part Two -The Unending Toil ... 37

Lincoln's first official Utterance

Lincoln's last public Expression

Ancestral Tracings

Personal Inheritances

Home Influences

The Call and the Vision

The Law and its Voice

The Voice becomes National

Weakness and Strength

National Ills

The Major and the Minor

The vicarious Sacrifice

The Burden and the Faith

The higher Humanity

The higher Leadership


Death of Lincoln

The Waste of Passion

Our human Loss
Part Three -The Achieving Spirit . . 75

Personal Significance

The Torch of Permanence


The Power of Love
The higher Thinking
The Torch of Power

The Voice of Relief
The higher Living
The Crown of Life
The Nation's Seer


The truth of life with its reaches of sentiment
and romance presents to man his most fascinating
and eternal problem. To reconcile this pervasive
romance in a nation's history with the demands of
modern scholarship is neither an easy nor always
a desirable undertaking; and the attempted recon-
ciliation too often discloses the scholar without
imagination. Still we are passing along a way,
wherein the sensitive imagination is being intelli-
gently informed. Facts have their romance as well
as hearsay and tradition. One need not move out-
side the material and spiritual circle of any simple
and sincere life to meet with the most sublime
thoughts and highest ideals of the thinker and poet.

Remarkable have been the achievements of his-
torical and scientific scholarship in the last few
decades, suggesting a field of vision to the poet-
prophet or affording an opportunity to the poet-
interpreter; and as he draws nigh unto his facts, his
vision strengthens and he reads the human heart as
one inspired. There is ethical significance here for
both the poet and the race. There is an immediacy
of environment playing upon every life inhering in
the very truth of that life. Here lies the common


meeting-ground for poet and scholar, giving us the
judgment of truth touched in colors of flesh and

The recent researches of Mrs. Caroline Hanks
Hitchcock, and Messrs. Howard, Learned, Lea,
and Hutchinson have been of inestimable value in
providing the way for silencing those who would
throw a cloud over the reputation of Nancy Hanks,
beloved mother of Abraham Lincoln. To Lea and
Hutchinson, especially, are we indebted for estab-
lishing the chain of Lincoln descent back into the
sixteenth century, and proving to a reasonable de-
gree of certainty that the Lincolns, even the much
scorned father of the president, have always been
among the first of their equals.

Nancy Hanks Lincoln, the mother of the presi-
dent, was born February 5, 1784, and died October
15, 181 8, at the age of thirty-four. Within those
few years were compressed much of early happi-
ness and some sorrow- for Nancy was orphaned
at nine years of age; something in the home of her
guardian. Aunt Lucy Shipley Berry, of a joyous and
intelligent leadership among her young compan-
ions, until she was fairly wooed and won by the in-
dustrious young carpenter, Thomas Lincoln; some-
thing of the experiences of a married life of simple
joy, for she loved her husband and their three chil-
dren, of whom two lived to be trained and instruct-
ed by her in the great and good things of life; and
finally, something of the common trials and suffer-


ings of the wife on the frontier of civilization, pass-
ing to an early death.

The mystery of life is the law of its continuance -
the forgetting and the remembering, the sinking
down and the rising up, the shaping of life upon
life. We cannot account for the meanest specimen
of mankind without entering the laboratory of the
mystic, and we shall never explain this Abraham
Lincoln by the historic method alone. The influ-
ences that moulded the future leader of his race
were subtle and varied ; but we may be certain that
the influence of his mother transcended any other.
He himself has said, "All that I am or hope to be,
I owe to my angel mother;" and we are slowly real-
izing that our president was even more of a Hanks,
than a Lincoln, as his features and mental charac-
teristics reveal. His wonderful tenderness and
humanity and his humor are the pervading char-
acteristics that came to him from his mother's line.
His sturdy honesty, his high sense of duty and his
capacity for suffering seem to be the elements, pe-
culiarly Lincoln, in his personality.

The union of the Lincoln and Hanks families
brought together two forces of eminent respectabil-
ity in their ranges of living. In the persons of
Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, we have -a
man, who amidst a series of the most tragic hap-
penings of a frontier life, proves himself capable of
sustaining an unwearying contest- a woman who
is above the average of her class in every way, yet


so gentle and intelligent as to win all as friends, one
capable of sacrificing for the good of her family
whatever was necessary of her own life. There
can be no rhetorical exaggeration in placing the
name of Nancy Hanks beside that of her martyred
son. The early death of this estimable woman gave
to Lincoln an ever ennobling memory but removed
from his daily presence a practical influence that
would have meant much to the unconscious refine-
ment of a noble human soul. As we link together
the names of Washington and Lincoln, let us also
place beside them the names of the two women who
were so much to them -Martha Washington and
Nancy Hanks -the wife and the mother.

George William Bell.
Stoneham, Mass., February, 191 3.


^art one
^ht ^fjaping Current

^fje lifting of tf)e"^ea- 1

Hail, mind of to-day, that with its spirit

Relights the dimming glow of cycles past
And fans to radiant brightness, darkest pit

That through long ages was not- an outcast!
That gropes with monumental patience, lest

Some valued and unsung memorial
Of ancient greatness keep its unknown rest,

And bear its part in silence -mystical!
To find, and to creatively affirm

The human stepping of the sons of God
Towards that inevitable, final term.

Where man no more sees service 'neath the rod.
The physical endurance of a noble past

Unveils but slowly its heroic might,
Yet lights up in the glowing mind, at last

A wondering tenderness for sorrow's night.

The pre-historic days, the ancient world,
The ferment born of time long since unfurled;
Have passed in some degree, will pass far more
Into the life that ventures to restore.

tttfje lifting of tfje Vtil-2

And restoration is the art of arts-

To build again the thought and deed of those
Who in creation's early days made charts

And evolved principles that slowly rose
In elemental greatness -this the task-

To reconstruct a life and time that bore
Eternal freshness and a will to ask

Its God for signs and symbols to explore.
Life is a whole, time but the agent strong,

Stripping the fetters binding to the earth;
There is no first, no last, nor right nor wrong

That in itself is absolute, has worth;
To-day is just as great as yesterday,

The victory and truth still unrevealed,
'Twill be the greater when the ancient way.

In re-creations, bears its will unsealed.

The reason's process through the straining years
Evokes the heart's great tumult and its tears;
And guides the master passion, through its light,
To dissipate the darkness of the night.


atfje jTreeing of tfje ^pixit- 1

To send anew the Word, heard, but unknown.

To ever glow with brilliance, pure, serene.
To light the beacons o'er the tombs, moss-grown,

Doth verify a purpose, felt, not seen;
Significance of soul present in One

Doth glorify unto an age its fruit,
And in the heart of man there has begun

Acknowledgment of Law -as absolute:
The law that finds its voice in one, then all,

In leader, then in people to be led.
Seeks of the loyal individual

Some service to all living- from all dead.
A Moses, Socrates, world-spirits these,

A Charlemagne, a Luther, and Cromwell,
Lean towards the higher law, and raise o'er seas

And lands, the emblems of truth's citadel.

Life's unit is the individual soul,
Encased or free, on voyage to some goal;
The world glows not but as the unit glows,
Each trail of glory, glory fresh bestows.


®ije jFreeing of tje ^pirit-2

The sunlight of intelligence darts back

Afar, whose rays destroy the atmosphere
Of superstition, nightmares that do wrack

Man's peace to terrorize his life with fear;
And a Columbus steers his course due West

To find a land whose bosom yields the hope
To millions toiling in their homes, unblessed.

Of freedom, and the right to live, not grope.
Courageous voyager, sailing the main

Of an uncharted sea, seeking to spell
In letters bold, the mystic path, to gain

Anew, man's right as ocean's sentinel:
Thy followers, Vespuccius, Cabot, Drake,

Champlain, La Salle, Balboa, and Marquette,
Remade thy glory and served to awake

The sleeping earth that would thy names forget.

The world looks for a sign but sees it when -
The years have raised it with the blood of men.
Those fearless wanderers who've found new lands
Died for a future that with praise expands.


®f)e Coming of tfje 3Racej;-l

America -thy eastern shores received

The human floods that swept their lines afar,

And gave thy rolling acres -well achieved -
Unto a world-task pointed by God's star.

O'er hill and plain and mountain spread the host,
Breaking the chains of empire and anew

As a Republic, stretched from coast to coast,
Sped liberty and freedom as man's due.

The conquering of a continent- for use-
Its untrod labyrinths op'ed and explored,

Its timber felled, its surface tilled, excuse
Enough for taking from a race abhorred

Through dark and bloody cruelties unmatched,
That land, a hunting ground, a haunt of beasts -

Some day the home of millions unattached

To old world privileges, to lords and priests.

All Europe feels her title in this land

Whose children found these shores, met first demand

Imperative for blood, and later spread

Her life, her thoughts, wherever pathways led.


atfje Coming of tfje d^attii 2

As in each life, life's discipline flows from

Repeated tasks, so conquest marks its pace
From east to west, to constantly o'ercome

Tide-water east, which fights the march of race.
Each step seems by the older most opposed,

And national vision comes first to the west;
Yet rests that vision with its truth disclosed.

Upon a government stable, the best:
And oft as the expanding forces move

Across the mountains, down the rivers' flight,
They pause to settle and their rights to prove

Against a nation's whettening appetite;
Till in the passing years, 'mid struggles grim,

A whole land sees with kindlier eyes, the soil
As home of man, productive synonym

For happiness, the right to live and toil.

The Revolution was the first advance,
The goal is reached but when the wide expanse
From shore to shore a common purpose sings,
Of people's rights, not selfish rule of kings.


tClje Witihm of tf)e ^am-l

The nation's pathway to its time of peace

Lies over seas of blood, through years of storm;
Its course uncertain, bending at caprice

Of party, section, to its dream perform.
The right to occupy, to cultivate

The land once taken from the Indian brave,
Gave us our homes, yet fostered bitterest hate

In that proud race, acts that it ne'er forgave.
The right to independence, in our rule

Of home affairs, in customs and in law,
Brought on a strife, worthy of ridicule

In part, in vaster part inspiring all.
The right to freedom and to liberty.

To strive and meet the urge of every soul ;
The right of nation to its destiny,

Found answer in the battle's grim control.

These are the acts of an ambitious race
Seeking its way, yet careless of its pace ;
Brave and in purpose righteous but aware
Too seldom, of the dangers that ensnare.


Wbt OTelbing of tfje ^arte 2

And in the wake of conquest came that scheme,

Our government, that man, our Washington.
A nation, raised to greatness, saw its dream

Unfolding mightily, the battle won.
In Washington, there was the harmony

Of spirit, product of no single age
Yet seeming like some vast reality

Uplifting all the land, at every stage :
In Hamilton, the genius of the mind

Sought to preserve the fabric of our plan,
Whose services and brilliance could not blind

The nation to his hostile views of man.
In Jefferson the people felt their own

Will rising to the forefront in the fight,
While upland Jackson made that will full grown,

Yet needing Lincoln to our land unite.

This country leans to leadership in part,
A leadership that teaches of the heart;
It needs its men of genius, thinkers bold.
To raise its future earthworks, and to hold.


$art ttuo
Cf)e ^nenbtns (ETotl

Lincoln's First Official Utterance

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies.
Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds
of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from
every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and
hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus
of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the
better angels of our nature.

Lincoln's Last Public Expression

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness
in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to
finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wx>unds, to
care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow
and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just
and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Ancestral blendings of our Lincoln raised

That giant mould of form and brain, the quest
With ever wearying stress of times that crazed,

To keep, and bring to fainting nation, rest.
From out the life of England's wealth, there passed

A glory to New England's rocky coast
That in new forms and freer, did at last

Trek to the South and West -a fertile host.
The Anglo-Saxon Lincoln blood runs pure

Throughout its English, Northern, Southern course,
Harking to-day of Shakespere's mighty lure

Of fame immortal, did it wield its force.
The first among their equals, Lincolns moved

From times long gone to fateful end of care;
His race and Nancy's own have ever proved

The value of the virtues born to dare.

Our nation strikes its roots in other lands,
Forming a tie that sympathy commands:
To rear aloft a new race, a new man.
Fairer in promise, nobler in his plan.


$ers;onal 3n\}txitanttsi

True Puritan, thy soul in moral zeal,

True Southern in its warmth and sympathy,
True Western most in vision, makes men feel

The ties of daily human chivalry.
Thy mother's sway artistic, in thy blood,

Lifted thy moral nature far beyond
The sphere of narrow practice, and its flood

Of dogma that does break, makes men despond.
To regions where the mind and heart do leap

Together in the framing of an act;
To heights where vision falters not to keep

The way of truth, with wisdom to attract.
Thy father's worth to thee was honesty

His tragic life failed utterly to kill;
Those hardships borne with courage fashioned thee

To know the test, and breast it with firm will.

The blending family stocks richly prevail
In weaving wondrous human fabrics, frail.
And shimmering with the life pulse all aflame,
Creation's document for time to claim.


J^omt STtifluemesi

How deeply has the heart of womankind

Enveloped earth with love's sweet mystery!
How marvelously its purer soul, entwined

With baser things, thrilled life's humanity!
How brightly has the lowly cottage shone

With all the treasures of a fruitful love,
E'en when the cottage boasts of love alone

A holy incense radiates above!
This lowly cottage in the fair South-land

Was nurturing soil at birth, and in his youth,
Storing a soul, impelled by high command.

With common wisdom leading unto truth.
The home, the forest, solitude of woods,

Raised deep within his nature -sympathies;
The books with thoughts and deeds, seemed brotherhoods.

Framing their themes for future melodies.

The sainted memories of childhood days
Plead sympathetically for better ways;
Spin daily texts in weaving of life-plans,
Rounding life's arch, all beauteous in its spans.


tIClje Call anb tfje "^i£(ion

The simple round of tasks filling the hours

Of those who swiftly follow in the wake
Of pioneers, may lend undreamed of powers

For making real, great visions as they break.
The merging of his youth in manhood's task,

As Lincoln passed to forum of debate,
Marked well the dawning insight, that the mask

Of folly on the face of truth, bred hate.
His call was of the deep unto the deep,

With vision flashing out as nature's torch.
Saw prejudice, the spectre, then o'erleap

Man's reason and o'erthrow the national arch.
He mastered principles that gripped the age.

He saw beneath the coating of all form
The monster slavery, our heritage

From out the past, a curse presaging storm.

The guilt of slavery first was borne by all,
Though later woe on South did heaviest fall;
The economic law first mastered right,
And then by right was conquered in grim fight.


VLi)t latD anb it^ 'Voitt

We never know the hour, the day, the year,

When God sees fit to place his rarest seal
Of prescient truth, upon a life career,

To evermore His purposes reveal.
A backwoodsman uncouth, untrained, unknown,

A fact athwart the theories of time,
Stands forth in homely garb, his challenge thrown,

Speaking the law that knows no race nor clime.
A law that is eternal in its will,

Biding no weakly turning from its sway,
That calls upon mankind to heed, fulfil.

Lest human bondage bring some vast decay.
Enkindling law that stirs the common heart

And mind to practise larger, nobler ends,
Yet uttered by this man with simple art,

Pleads for a practise that with mercy blends.

The ripening wisdom of a mind unslaved
By temper's prejudice, heart undepraved,
Marshals an eloquence, recruiting trust,
Prophetic of a day more fair, more just.


tElje 'Voitt httomta iSational

The heavy hanging of storm-laden clouds,

Wrapping the earth in gloom of sternest doubt,
The signs and wonders playing 'midst the crowds,

Helped sentiment, staid reason's choice to rout.
The voice of reason and the scholar's hope

United in the leader of the cause
Of human rights, whose wisdom would not grope

In darkness, at the breaking of the laws;
But sentiment chose Lincoln as its voice.

And sternly negatived the pride of place,
With its ambitions and its selfish choice

Of hard inhuman methods that debase.
A nation brave in heart, yet bound in fear,

Dreads issue pressing madly to the fore;
It weeps and shudders, halts, while falling tear

Of shame reveals the heart protesting sore.

The ways of Seward had been tried -had failed
But to arouse the passions, time bewailed:
The ways of Douglas could no longer guide
The moral-swinging nation o'er the tide.

The nation's chief felt first the strain of grief

That lay behind the gleam-war's panoply-
Ah, could the land have known its mighty chief,

Its trust must soon have lessened enmity.
The rendering of the ballot cleared the mist

And bared the crevisse 'neath the foot of man;
No longer lashing tongue, but mailed fist

Seemed to the Southern section, Lincoln's plan.
The radicals at last had reached their own;

But all unknowingly a king chose they
Of men, whose power might then have strewn

Good-will upon this earth, and brought delay.
Had not obsession seized the nation's mind,

Both North and South, and blood of tumult beat
Victorious o'er a pathway peace-designed:

And Lincoln knew the sorrow of defeat.

O mighty nation, bred to great ideas,

To freedom's way and not to old world fears;

Yet once again needing the patriot's deeds

To save the land when statemanship stampedes.


^attonal M^

The nation's blood tumultuous, now must dye

The fruitful earth with mark of crimson stain,
And strew its fields with dead, to pacify

An age of conscience, stumbling to explain.
Alas that carnage should prove arbiter

For issues that our minds failed to control!
Alas that war should prove artificer

Of national edifice, and crimes condole!
The mounting hopes of man in government

Becloud themselves with theories unreal,
And seek, sometimes, to thwart a nation's bent

By rashly overlooking time's stern deal:
As oft and even more a part withdraws

In selfish eagerness to press its own
Advantage, 'gainst the wisdom of the laws

That guide the whole, through binding national tone.

Man's savagery creeps forth at times to show
How much we lean for aid on things below.
Yet joyful comedy gives man's estate.
Dark tragedies reveal what comes too late.


^f}t iWajor anb tje JMinor

Fallen the rights of man with nation's fall,

Crushing the age-long hopes beneath despair,
Had he, we trusted, failed to lift his call

To task of Union-saving as his share.
The Federal power supreme, our liberty,

Lay trembling at the edge of frenzied might;
Not first was smiting down of slavery,

Though primal cause of nation's darkening night.
The Federal power supreme- that shaping cone

Of just efficiency in government
That more and more must be, its base, its throne,

Converging to its crown magnificent-
With peak alone must tower to the sky

Inviting to an outlook, single, true;
While all the framing elements may try

To add a varied glory to the view.

In passion's time a lowly wisdom fights
But haltingly against life wasting spites;
Yet, in its steady flame hope lingers still.
Till fury, sated, yields its outworn will.


tCfte bicariufiJ ^acrifite

The fast approaching Juggernaut of War

Seemed destined to ride ruthless o'er the land,
Crushing the hearts and deafening with its roar.

Till dead and dying equalled fell demand.
There fire and battle's smoke from woods to shore,

There curse of men charging to life's last stand,
Then groans and shrieks of dying, corps on corps.

Then marching armies hurling torch and brand.
Brave brother with brave brother madly fought,

While mountains smoked and rivers changed their hue,
And deeds of valor have forever wrought

Courageous purpose to one national view.
The world seems oft to pass beneath the cross

And ofifer up its best to venture on ;
'Tis certain that the world knows not its loss.

Else grimmest vestments of its grief would don.

War is the cure of kings, of potentates,
The lust of power, its note reverberates ;
Sometimes a nation, reason ruled, resigns
Its master, and to maddening war inclines.


Wi)t Purben anb ttje Jf aitij

When in those days lives spent themselves as dust,

And God of shelter seemed no longer aid;
A murmuring nation rose then to distrust

Its Lincoln, poured forth bitter, cruel tirade.
To read into those hardening facts of war,

To see through all the killing of that time,
The overflowing mercy, so much more,

The culminating purpose, all sublime.
These burdens etched the furrows on his face.

And stooped his form beneath stern duty's drill;
These gave unto his look its noble grace,

Voicing e'en then and evermore God's will.
But Lincoln held the faith a nation lacked

And suffered not the vision to depart.
However grievously the burden racked

Or clamorously assailed each murmuring dart.

The elemental strength of Lincoln lay

In merging joy with sorrow through his day;

In those excursions of the soul, that sift

Life's nearness, making room for thoughts that lift.


Online LibraryGeorge William BellAbraham Lincoln; a poetical interpretation (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 2)