Vachel Lindsay

(November 10, 1879 – December 5, 1931 / Springfield, Illinois)

Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight


It is portentous, 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 in 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 and 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 Cornwall, 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?

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Mark Smith (3/2/2014 9:56:00 PM)

    I just figured out I have a copy of this poem in his hand addressed to a Mrs.J. cameron bradley of boston dated march/2/1915...I never new (Report) Reply

  • B Nash (2/14/2010 9:00:00 PM)

    A haunting and beautiful poem. I was just at Mr. Lindsay's home in Springfield two days ago. It's wonderfully preserved. For more Vachel Lindsay poetry on Lincoln visit: http: //abesblogcabin.org/category/poets-on-lincoln (Report) Reply

  • Terence George Craddock (2/11/2010 3:18:00 AM)

    Reminds me of The Ghost Train of Abraham Lincoln, when Lincoln's body was being transported in state across America by train, before being laid to rest, after his assassination. There is a subject for a haunting poem. anyone up for the challenge. The legends and circumstances are alluring. (Report) Reply

  • David Patrykus (4/14/2009 6:25:00 PM)

    This poem can be read, in his own handwriting, on the sign in front of Vachel Lindsay's home in Springfield, Illinois. The home is open to the public on most Saturdays. (Report) Reply

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