Abraham Lincoln: Poet(!)

I finished reading There I Grew Up: Remembering Abraham’s Indiana Youth today.  (I actually just picked it up at the bookstore yesterday, but it’s not too long.)  It’s a much more scholarly & ‘research driven’ book than I’ve been reading lately, but I did find it pretty interesting.  Perhaps I would have found it less so if it weren’t for the fact that I live in Indiana myself.

A week from tomorrow, the book discussion group at Bookmama’s Bookstore is meeting to talk about this book and the author, William Bartelt will be present.  I am looking forward to this.  The author worked for 15 years (in the summer) at the Lincoln Boyhood Home National Memorial and am sure has insight about Lincoln above and beyond what was covered in this book, which focused almost exclusively on Lincoln’s time in Indiana.

What I learned that was new to me was the fact that Lincoln also dabbled in poetry.  One excerpt given particularly struck me.  It was written around 1846, after Lincoln had made a visit to his old ‘stomping grounds’ in 1844. It is a reflection upon his seeing a person, Matthew Gentry, with whom he grew up and who also had suffered from some kind of attack of mental illness when he was only nineteen.  Lincoln was shocked to find him still alive and lingering “in this wretched condition.”  The first two stanzas give you the tone:

But here’s an object more of dread
Than ought the grave contains –
A human form with reason fled,
While wretched life remains

Poor Matthew! Once of genius bright,
A fortune-favored child –
Now locked for aye, in mental night,
A haggard mad-man wild

How sad.  I often hear discussed the question “What’s your greatest fear?”  I don’t know if I’ve ever been asked this directly, but “losing my mind” would have to be right up there…

Good book.  I’ll report back after our meeting on the 13th.

I remember as a child we had a couple ‘children’s books’ about the presidents – well, maybe just about Washington & Lincoln.  Next time I’m over at Mom’s I’m going to have to see if I can find them.  The image below reminds me of them, although I don’t think it’s from the book we had.  I have a distinct memory of one illustration of Lincoln wrestling some unfortunate rival. A quick google search of web images failed to find it though…