Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Lincoln at Gettysburg

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Middle States: Gettysburg, Pa.

Lincoln at Gettysburg

By Bayard Taylor (1825–1878)

(From Gettysburg Ode: Dedication of the National Monument, July 1, 1869)

AFTER the eyes that looked, the lips that spake

Here, from the shadows of impending death,

Those words of solemn breath,

What voice may fitly break

The silence, doubly hallowed, left by him?

We can but bow the head, with eyes grown dim,

And, as a Nation’s litany, repeat

The phrase his martyrdom hath made complete,

Noble as then, but now more sadly sweet:

“Let us, the living, rather dedicate

Ourselves to the unfinished work, which they

Thus far advanced so nobly on its way,

And save the perilled state!

Let us, upon this field where they, the brave,

Their last full measure of devotion gave,

Highly resolve they have not died in vain!—

That, under God, the Nation’s later birth

Of Freedom, and the people’s gain

Of their own Sovereignty, shall never wane

And perish from the circle of the earth!”

From such a perfect text, shall Song aspire

To light her faded fire,

And into wandering music turn

Its virtue, simple, sorrowful, and stern?

His voice all elegies anticipated;

For, whatsoe’er the strain,

We hear that one refrain:

“We consecrate ourselves to them, the Consecrated!”

After the thunder-storm our heaven is blue:

Far off, along the borders of the sky,

In silver folds the clouds of battle lie,

With soft, consoling sunlight shining through;

And round the sweeping circle of your hills

The crashing cannon-thrills

Have faded from the memory of the air;

And Summer pours from unexhausted fountains

Her bliss on yonder mountains:

The camps are tenantless, the breastworks bare:

Earth keeps no stain where hero-blood was poured:

The hornets, humming on their wings of lead,

Have ceased to sting, their angry swarms are dead,

And, harmless in its scabbard, rusts the sword!

Oh, not till now,—Oh, now we dare, at last,

To give our heroes fitting consecration!

Not till the soreness of the strife is past,

And Peace hath comforted the weary Nation!

So long her sad, indignant spirit held

One keen regret, one throb of pain, unquelled;

So long the land about her feet was waste,

The ashes of the burning lay upon her,

We stood beside their graves with brows abased,

Waiting the purer mood to do them honor!


And yet, ye Dead!—and yet

Our clouded natures cling to one regret:

We are not all resigned

To yield, with even mind,

Our scarcely risen stars, that here untimely set.

We needs must think of History that waits

For lines that live but in their proud beginning,—

Arrested promises and cheated fates,—

Youth’s boundless venture and its single winning!

We see the ghosts of deeds they might have done,

The phantom homes that beaconed their endeavor;

The seeds of countless lives, in them begun,

That might have multiplied for us forever!

We grudge the better strain of men

That proved itself, and was extinguished then,—

The field, with strength and hope so thickly sown,

Wherefrom no other harvest shall be mown:

For all the land, within its clasping seas,

Is poorer now in bravery and beauty,

Such wealth of manly loves and energies

Was given to teach us all the free man’s sacred duty!