Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 1.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

``My Childhood-Home I See Again'' [1]

[February 25?] 1846

My childhood-home I see again,

And gladden with the view;

And still as mem'ries crowd my brain,

There's sadness in it too.

O memory! thou mid-way world

'Twixt Earth and Paradise,

Where things decayed, and loved ones lost

In dreamy shadows rise.

And freed from all that's gross or vile,

Seem hallowed, pure, and bright,

Like scenes in some enchanted isle,

All bathed in liquid light.

Page  368As distant mountains please the eye,

When twilight chases day---

As bugle-tones, that, passing by,

In distance die away---

As leaving some grand water-fall

We ling'ring, list it's roar,

So memory will hallow all

We've known, but know no more.

Now twenty years have passed away,

Since here I bid farewell

To woods, and fields, and scenes of play

And school-mates loved so well.

Where many were, how few remain

Of old familiar things!

But seeing these to mind again

The lost and absent brings.

The friends I left that parting day---

How changed, as time has sped!

Young childhood grown, strong manhood grey,

And half of all are dead.

I hear the lone survivors tell

How nought from death could save,

Till every sound appears a knell,

And every spot a grave.

I range the fields with pensive tread,

And pace the hollow rooms;

And feel (companions of the dead)

I'm living in the tombs.

A[nd] 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.

Page  369Poor Matthew! I have ne'er forgot

When first with maddened will,

Yourself you maimed, your father fought,

And mother strove to kill;

And terror spread, and neighbours ran,

Your dang'rous strength to bind;

And soon a howling crazy man,

Your limbs were fast confined.

How then you writhed and shrieked aloud,

Your bones and sinnews bared;

And fiendish on the gaping crowd,

With burning eye-balls glared.

And begged, and swore, and wept, and prayed,

With maniac laughter joined---

How fearful are the signs displayed,

By pangs that kill the mind!

And when at length, tho' drear and long,

Time soothed your fiercer woes---

How plaintively your mournful song,

Upon the still night rose.

I've heard it oft, as if I dreamed,

Far-distant, sweet, and lone;

The funeral dirge it ever seemed

Of reason dead and gone.

To drink it's strains, I've stole away,

All silently and still,

Ere yet the rising god of day

Had streaked the Eastern hill.

Air held his breath; the trees all still

Seemed sorr'wing angels round.

Their swelling tears in dew-drops fell

Upon the list'ning ground.

But this is past, and nought remains

That raised you o'er the brute.

Your mad'ning shrieks and soothing strains

Are like forever mute.

Page  370Now fare thee well: more thou the cause

Than subject now of woe.

All mental pangs, but time's kind laws,

Hast lost the power to know.

And [2] now away to seek some scene

Less painful than the last---

With less of horror mingled in

The present and the past.

The very spot where grew the bread

That formed my bones, I see.

How strange, old field, on thee to tread,

And feel I'm part of thee!

Annotation

[1]   AD, DLC. The date of this manuscript is uncertain. The editors have dated it the day following Lincoln's letter (supra) to Andrew Johnston because in that letter Lincoln specifies that the poem is ``almost done.'' The first ten stanzas, with some minor corrections or variations, were enclosed in the letter to Johnston, April 18, 1846 (infra), and the remainder, excepting the last two, but including an additional stanza, were sent to Johnston in a letter of September 6, 1846 (infra). Since Lincoln refers in his letter of April 18 to the poem's having four cantos, it seems obvious that this manuscript is incomplete. It is possible that ``The Bear Hunt,'' mentioned in the letter of September 6, 1846, and hence printed under that date, may be one of the cantos. But this accounts for only three of the four cantos mentioned by Lincoln. Possibly Lincoln did not complete the poem as planned, or the manuscript may not have been preserved in its entirety.

[2]   This stanza and the next seem obviously to mark the beginning of a third canto.