Abraham Lincoln—April 14, 1865
O’er the warrior gauntlet grim
Late the silken glove we drew,
Bade the watch-fires slacken dim
In the dawn’s auspicious hue.
Stayed the armèd heel;
Still the clanging steel;
Joys unwonted thrilled the silence through.
Glad drew near the Easter tide;
And the thoughts of men anew
Turned to Him who spotless died
For the peace that none shall rue.
Out of mortal pain
This abiding strain
Issued: “Peace, my peace, I give to you.”
Musing o’er the silent strings,
By their apathy opprest,
Waiting for the spirit-wings,
To be touched and soul-possessed,
“I am dull,” I said:
“Treason is not dead;
Still in ambush lurks that shivering guest.”
Then a woman’s shriek of fear
Smote us in its arrowy flight;
And a wonder wild and drear
Did the hearts of men unite.
Has the seed of crime
Reached its flowering-time.
That it shoots to this audacious height?
Then, as frosts the landscape change,
Stiffening from the summer’s glow,
Grew the jocund faces strange,
Lay the loftiest emblem low:
Kings are of the past,
Suffered still to last;
These twin crowns the present did bestow.
Fair assassin, murder white,
With thy serpent speed avoid
Each unsullied household light,
Every conscience unalloyed.
Neither heart nor home
Where good angels come
Suffer thee in nearness to abide.
Slanderer of the gracious brow,
The untiring blood of youth,
Servant of an evil vow,
Of a crime that beggars ruth,
Treason was thy dam,
Wolfling, when the Lamb,
The Anointed, met thy venomed tooth.
With the righteous did he fall,
With the sainted doth he lie;
While the gibbet’s vultures call
Thee, that, ‘twixt the earth and sky,
Disavowed of both
In their Godward troth,
Thou mayst make thy poor amend, and die.
If it were my latest breath,
Doomed his bloody end to share,
I would brand thee with his death
As a deed beyond despair.
Since the Christ was lost
For a felon’s cost,
None like thee of vengeance should beware.
Leave the murderer, noble song,
Helpless in the toils of fate:
To the just thy meeds belong,
To the martyr, to the state.
When the storm beats loud
Over sail and shroud
Tunefully the seaman cheers his mate.
Never tempest lashed the wave
But to leave it fresher calm;
Never weapon scarred the brave
But their blood did purchase balm.
God hath writ on high
Such a victory
As uplifts the nation with its psalm.
Honor to the heart of love,
Honor to the peaceful will,
Slow to threaten, strong to move,
Swift to render good for ill!
Glory crowns his end,
And the captive’s friend
From his ashes makes us freemen still.
This poem is in the public domain.