Abraham Lincoln in Heaven
Thus came two
Along the gleaming highways of God's realm,
A little puzzled at the brightness all
About them, but still filled with thoughts
Of wordly things. And one had perished for
The lack of food while bread and meat did rot
In Lincoln's homeland, while the other died
A suicide because in that same land
His pride would not permit that he should beg.
And as they trod the heavenly street, behold,
They saw approaching them Abe Lincoln, tall
And lean and shabby, just as pictures show !
He gazed upon them keenly and observed
Their woe-begone and haggard look, stopped them,
Inquired their names, their homes, their work on earth,
And how they came to pass from out the flesh.
Then cried the one whose hands had torn the soul
From his own body in despair and shame —
Cried out as though he yet were in the world :
"Lincoln, you should be here! In our weak times
A cloud of bitterness broods o'er your land;
A canker festers in its heart, and crimes
Committed on your people by the hand —
The self -same hand — of Privilege that mocked
All human rights in your own day, and sneered
To scorn the cry of common folk, and rocked
The nation to its very base, and boldly reared
Enthroned property above the soul
Of Man — these crimes insidious go free,
Unchallenged, lest the party pelf, the dole
Of coin for sycophants should cease to be.
We need a leader — one who knows not fear
Of Man or Gold. Lincoln, you should be here!"
There swept across the face of Lincoln at those words
A look of sorrow deep as when in other days
He saw the dead and wounded brought from battle-fields
Or heard the plea of mother that her soldier-son
Be spared from shameful death. And then he turned his eyes
Be-dimmed with tears upon this one so lately come
From hunger and the greed of men on earth, and spoke:
''Even out here in Heaven still my thoughts return
To her, America, the land that nurtured me
And gave to me such opportunities as yet
The older nations wonder at. Therefore each day
My spirit wanders back and notes — ah, with what pain !-
How anguish racks the hearts of multitudes while wealth
Insatiable grasps ever more for even the mite
The poor are yet allowed to gain."
Then reaching forth
His mighty arms, Abe Lincoln cried in warning tones :
"I hear men's weary feet plod by —
Grim men who seek for work — I hear the oft repeated sigh
Of souls where sorrows lurk.
"They look at nothing any more;
They simply tread the round
That leads from factory door to door,
And gaze upon the ground.
"I fear their silence in this hour,
I fear the thoughts they think,
I fear that in their mood so dour
From curses deep they shrink.
"I mind me of old Paris town
Before it crimson ran,
When silence on its walls sank down
Before men slaughtered man.
"O country, country of my birth!
What means this rueful scene,
When Labor walks the streets in dearth
And Hunger stalketh lean?
"I fear for thee, my native soil,
I fear, if speak they must;
For men, denied the right to toil,
Have empires hurled to dust!"
Then spoke the other lately come from earth, the one
Whose life had failed for bread, because his willing toil
Could not be sold for hoarded grain and meat. He too
Seemed to forget that he no longer dwelt among
Such contradictions ; spoke as though he were on earth :
lf you, Lincoln, should return
And see the nation you did save,
I would I might be near to learn
The thoughts the vision to you gave.
"Would it be towers that sweep the sky?
Would it be dynamo or plane?
Would it be miracles that vie
With only what the gods attain?
"Would it be these that drew your thought?
I think not, Lincoln. You would then
Inquire, not what our arts have brought,
But of our nation and its men.
"I hear you asking in that hour,
'Possess you those who yet love Right;
Who hold to that which gave me power
To guide this nation through its night?'
"If, then, Lincoln, thus you came,
Would our bold 'Yea' triumphant roll?
Or would we whimper in our shame,
'We clean forgot this thing called Soul'?"
And Lincoln slowly passed and murmured as he went
"I wander down among my people —
Unseen, unseen —
Under the trees about the steeple,
Where sleep the hearts of those I knew
And loved in days when there on earth
I walked the ways of men. 'Neath dew
Their clay now knows nor woe nor mirth.
Death doth glean,
"Out here beyond I meet my people,
Seen, yes seen,
In the mystic land beyond the steeple;
Speak oft with them of things on earth,
Of how the folk of mine own land
Are struggling toward the heights of ivorth,
Grasped in the power of God's great hand.
Celestial sheen ,
"Yes, I wander down among my people —
Unseen, unseen —
These folk whose dust lies round the steeple.
For though I meet their souls each day,
I love them as they used to be
When dwelling in their mortal clay —
As I love you, humanity!
O'er you I learn,
The two so lately entered into Heaven's realm
Gazed long upon the figure gaunt that with
Bowed head tramped slowly through a quiet street
That led out toward a vast gray lake — a lake
Composed of all the tears that man has shed
Since first humanity did know the lash
Of sorrows men inflict on men, and there
The angels come from time to time to lave
Their eyes lest they forget the meaning of
A tear. And Lincoln slowly went toward it.
Then said the suicide shamefacedly,
"How can I ever dare to look into
His eyes again — I who in fear destroyed
My mortal temple, when this one did bear
The agonies of millions in his heart
And even here still suffers for their wrongs ?"
The other peered a moment at the lone,
Tall figure by the dim, gray lake, and then
Burst forth in tones of sudden, glowing pride :
"When I consider how those arms of his
Upheld this nation in its hour of woe
While petty worshippers of Now and Is
Shot shafts that stung more deeply than the foe
Who strove to rend the pillars of our weal;
When I consider how his strength of soul,
His wisdom, faith, and will that held like steel
Had only love of Man as their fixed goal,
I thank my God that such a heart arose
From out the stock of common folk who toil
Through lowly life and midst its daily prose
Draw forth the poetry of life from soil.
Here in one man revealed, through Heaven’s grace,
The sublimated essence of the race!"
Over the hills and the valleys of Heaven the souls of the
Wander for ages enjoying the strange and enchanting
Of peoples of all of the nations and eras the world has yet
Man from the Garden went forth to inhabit and battle and
And here in the Ultimate Home just as formerly there in
Dwelling in tribes and in races they live in accord with the
They in their earth-life had followed.
To Lincoln, who always found pleasure
Mingling with men and discussing with them the unusual
All that he saw, as he roamed at his leisure from nation to
Proved to him over and over that man in the basic essentials
Has changed not at all in the myriad ages of cultures and
Annals and chronicles tell in such detail. He found, oh, how
The heart and its deeper emotions had altered since first
in Egyptian Lands or in Babylon, hearts had recorded their feelings.
Down by a river that seemed but an image of Nile the
He discovered a maiden of days of the Pharaohs a-singing
Sad as the wail of a soul that has lost all it cherished so
Secretly listening, all of its pathos vibrated in him,
Filling his eyes with the tears of a comprehension that even
Fifty or more of the centuries of passage of time of us
Dmmed not. Then, nodding his head in full understanding,
"Oh, little song, sung ages long ago
Under the palms beside the winding Nile,
Crooned by some mother by the river’s flow,
Or swarthy slaves a-march in weary file,
Chafed with their chains of clanking links!
Mayhap some dusky maiden longing gazed
Across the gleaming sand to where was raised
The massive wonder of the silent Sphinx,
And, singing, dreamed of him, her lover strong,
Who fought for Rameses in kingdoms dim.
Oh, chant of sadness, mystery of song,
In these, your weird and wailing notes I hear
A weariness of life e'en then — a hymn
Heart-heavy; yet amidst its shadowed fear
The hope the Gods some day shall right all wrong!
Oh, song of ancient days, I feel your cry
Of ages long: the soul must hope — or die!"