Lincoln, Man of the People [1922 version]

Original Text: 

Edwin Markham, Lincoln -- The Man of the People (New York: Bernhardt Wall, 1922). Internet Archive

2Greatening and darkening as it hurried on,
3She left the Heaven of Heroes and came down
4To make a man to meet the mortal need.
5She took the tried clay of the common road --
6Clay warm yet with the genial heat of Earth,
7Dasht through it all a strain of prophecy,
8Tempered the heap, with thrill of human tears
9Then mixt a laughter with the serious stuff.
10Into the shape she breathed a flame to light
11That tender, tragic, ever-changing face;
12And laid on him a sense of the Mystic Powers,
13Moving -- all husht -- behind the mortal vail.
14Here was a man to hold against the world,
15A man to match the mountains and the sea.
16The color of the ground was in him, the red earth,
17The smack and tang of elemental things:
18The rectitude of patience of the cliff,
19The good-will of the rain that loves all leaves,
20The friendly welcome of the wayside well,
21The courage of the bird that dares the sea,
22The gladness of the wind that shakes the corn,
23The pity of the snow that hides all scars,
24The secrecy of streams that make their way
25Under the mountain to the rifted rock,
26The tolerance and equity of light
27That gives as freely to the shrinking flower
28As to the great oak flaring to the wind --
29To the grave's low hill as to the Matterhorn
30That shoulders out the sky. Sprung from the West,
31He drank the valorous youth of a new world.
32The strength of virgin forests braced his mind,
33The hush of spacious prairies stilled his soul.
34His words were oaks in acorns; and his thoughts
35Were roots that firmly gript the granite truth.
36Up from log cabin to the Capitol,
37One fire was on his spirit, one resolve --
38To send the keen ax to the root of wrong,
39Clearing a free way for the feet of God,
40The eyes of conscience testing every stroke,
41To make his deed the measure of a man.
42He built the rail-pile as he built the State,
43Pouring his splendid strength through every blow:
44The grip that swung the ax in Illinois,
45Was on the pen that set a people free.
46So came the Captain with the mighty heart;
47And when the judgment thunders split the house,
48Wrenching the rafters from their ancient rest,
49He held the ridgepole up, and spikt again
50The rafters of the Home. He held his place --
51Held the long purpose like a growing tree --
52Held on through blame and faltered not at praise --
53Towering in calm rough-hewn sublimity.
54And when he fell in whirlwind, he went down
55As when a lordly cedar, green with boughs,
56Goes down with a great shout upon the hills,
57And leaves a lonesome place against the sky.
58

59[1901 version]
60When the Norn-Mother saw the Whirlwind Hour,
61Greatening and darkening as it hurried on,
62She bent the strenuous Heavens and came down
63To make a man to meet the mortal need.
64She took the tried clay of the common road --
65Clay warm yet with the genial heat of Earth,
66Dashed through it all a strain of prophecy;
67Then mixed a laughter with the serious stuff.
68It was a stuff to wear for centuries,
69A man that matched the mountains, and compelled
70The stars to look our way and honor us.
71The color of the ground was in him, the red earth;
72The tang and odor of the primal things --
73The rectitude and patience of the rocks;
74The gladness of the wind that shakes the corn;
75The courage of the bird that dares the sea;
76The justice of the rain that loves all leaves;
77The pity of the snow that hides all scars;
78The loving-kindness of the wayside well;
79The tolerance and equity of light
80That gives as freely to the shrinking weed
81As to the great oak flaring to the wind --
82To the grave's low hill as to the Matterhorn
83That shoulders out the sky.
84                                         And so he came.
85From prairie cabin up to Capitol,
86One fair Ideal led our chieftain on.
87Forevermore he burned to do his deed
88With the fine stroke and gesture of a king.
89He built the rail-pile as he built the State,
90Pouring his splendid strength through every blow,
91The conscience of him testing every stroke,
92To make his deed the measure of a man.
93So came the Captain with the mighty heart:
94And when the step of Earthquake shook the house,
95Wrenching the rafters from their ancient hold,
96He held the ridgepole up, and spiked again
97The rafters of the Home. He held his place --
98Held the long purpose like a growing tree --
99Held on through blame and faltered not at praise.
100And when he fell in whirlwind, he went down
101As when a kingly cedar green with boughs
102Goes down with a great shout upon the hills,
103And leaves a lonesome place against the sky.

Notes

1] "This revised version was chosen out of two hundred and fifty Lincoln poems by the committee headed by Chief Justice Taft to be read at the dedication of the great Lincoln Memorial erected by the government in Washington, D. C., in 1922. There were one hundred thousand listeners on the ground and two million over the radio. President Harding delivered the address, and the author read the poem." Back to Line
Publication Notes: 

Edwin Markham, Lincoln & Other Poems (New York: McClure, Phillips, 1901): 1-3. Internet Archive

RPO poem Editors: 
Data entry: Sharine Leung
RPO Edition: 
2012
Rhyme: 
Form: