In Springfield, Illinois

IT is portentious, and a thing of state
That here at midnight, in our little town
A mourning figure walks, and will not rest,
Near the old court-house, pacing up and down.

Or by his homestead, or by shadowed yards
He lingers where his children used to play,
Or through the market, on the well-worn stones
He stalks until the dawn-stars burn away.

A bronzed, lank man! His suit of ancient black,
A famous high top-hat, and plain worn shawl
Make him the quaint, great figure that men love,
The prairie-lawyer, master of us all.

He cannot sleep upon his hillside now.
He is among us:–as in times before!
And we who toss or lie awake for long
Breathe deep, and start, to see him pass the door.

His head is bowed. He thinks on men and kings.
Yea, when the sick world cries, how can he sleep?
Too many peasants fight, they know not why,
Too many homesteads in black terror weep.

The sins of all the war-lords burn his heart.
He sees the dreadnaughts scouring every main.
He carries on his shawl-wrapped shoulders now
The bitterness, the folly and the pain.

He cannot rest until a spirit-dawn
Shall come:–the shining hope of Europe free:
The league of sober folk, the Workers’ Earth,
Bringing long peace to Cornland, Alp and Sea.

It breaks his heart that kings must murder still,
That all his hours of travail here for men
Seem yet in vain. And who will bring white peace
That he may sleep upon his hill again?

Analysis, meaning and summary of Vachel Lindsay's poem Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight

6 Comments

  1. Barbara Hixon says:

    When I was a student at Springfield High School (1929-1933) and was known as Louise Bartels, I was privileged to hear Vachel Lincsay recite some of his poems in a school assembly. His recital of his “Congo” sent shivers down my back. His recital of “Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight” gave insight
    into the melancholy side of Lincoln’s life.

    I was also privileged to have Vachel Lindsay’s friend and mentor, Miss Susan Wilcox, as a teacher of English classses. Iam grateful for all of that.

  2. Sandi Weld says:

    A stirring and timeless poem. The Capitol building in Charleston, WV has a beautiful bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln inspired this poem. The good people of WV are closely linked to Mr. Lincoln, as he signed the document that allowed them to separate from the pro-slavery types in the eastern half of the state. If you love the poem, see the statue.

  3. Larry Stevens says:

    The description of Lincoln was apparently taken from William H. Herndon’s “Life of Lincoln.” The shawl-wrapped Lincoln “stalks” right out of the last chapter of Herndon’s must-read biography.

  4. Harry Hickey says:

    The surface-message of the poem is clear, but underneath there are hints of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in the concept of a great ruler returning from the grave because of great troubles in the world. Note especially the opening line — this is the kind of language that Shakespeare could have written.

  5. dani says:

    hey i dont really like your poem i have read alot of poem and i didnt like that one you have alot of good one but thats not one of you best

  6. jerry says:

    a great prospective of how he must have thought lincoln felt after his death. the suffering of people for nothing amidst people after the war. being wrongly teated.and he wonderd if lincoln would ever be able to rest. but I wonder if the writer would have ever wrote this piece if he were not from illinois..he obviously gave a lot of thought to lincolns life and the way he must have felt

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