Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight

Original Text: 
Vachel Lindsay, The Daniel Jazz and Other Poems (London: G. Bell, 1920): 66-68. PS 3523 I58D3 Robarts Library. Collected Poems (New York: Macmillan, 1923): 53-54. PS 3523 I58A17 Robarts Library.
(In Springfield, Illinois)
2That here at midnight, in our little town
3A mourning figure walks, and will not rest,
6He lingers where his children used to play,
7Or through the market, on the well-worn stones
8He stalks until the dawn-stars burn away.
9A bronzed, lank man! His suit of ancient black,
10A famous high top-hat and plain worn shawl
11Make him the quaint great figure that men love,
12The prairie-lawyer, master of us all.
14He is among us: -- as in times before!
15And we who toss and lie awake for long
16Breathe deep, and start, to see him pass the door.
17His head is bowed. He thinks on men and kings.
18Yea, when the sick world cries, how can he sleep?
19Too many peasants fight, they know not why,
20Too many homesteads in black terror weep.
21The sins of all the war-lords burn his heart.
23He carries on his shawl-wrapped shoulders now
24The bitterness, the folly and the pain.
25He cannot rest until a spirit-dawn
26Shall come; -- the shining hope of Europe free;
27The league of sober folk, the Workers' Earth,
29It breaks his heart that kings must murder still,
30That all his hours of travail here for men
31Seem yet in vain. And who will bring white peace
32That he may sleep upon his hill again?


1] Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), 16th president of the United States, assassinated in Ford's Theatre, Washington, D.C., at the close of the American Civil War. His home town, and Lindsay's, was Springfield, the state capital of Illinois. Back to Line
4] the old court-house: the old state capitol, completed in 1853. Lincoln in 1858 gave his "House Divided" speech, on the chaotic effects of having a government both for and against slavery. A limestone edifice, it now stands near the downtown mall. Back to Line
5] Lincoln's home, erected in 1839 and purchased by him in 1844, stands at 8th and Jackson and is open to the public. Back to Line
13] his hillside: the Lincoln monument, built over his grave, stands in Oak Ridge cemetery. The granite obelisk and mausoleum were finished in 1874, obtained by the state in 1895, and restored by it in 1899-1901. Back to Line
22] dreadnoughts: battleships. Back to Line
28] Cornland: town in central Illinois. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
Independent (Sept. 21, 1914)
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.