That Abraham Lincoln is worth remembering 200 years after his birth is self-evident. Much can be said about him, and I will say a few words at a talk here today, and we will say more in the upcoming issue of On Principle which is going to press today (ten good essays...well, nine, plus mine), but for now let me just bring to your attention a passage from Fred Kaplan’s book, Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer in which he points to a passage in Lincoln’s Address to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society and re-arranges it typografically and says this: "the paragraph reveals a free verse poem of sophisticated triadic phrases, alliteration and assonance, and a delayed climactic phrase that remembers the first sentence, providing both recognition and unity." He calls it "Lincoln’s best poem." Read aloud, please.
Every blade of grass is a study;
And to produce two,
Where there was but one,
Is both a profit and a pleasure.
And not grass alone;
But soils, seeds, and seasons
Hedges, ditches, and fences,
Draining, droughts, and irrigation
Plowing, hoeing, and harrowing
Reaping, mowing, and threshing
Saving crops, pests of crops, diseases of crops,
And what will prevent or cure them
Implements, utensils, and machines,
Their relative merits,
And [how] to improve them
Hogs, horses, and cattle
Sheep, goats, and poultry
Trees, shrubs, fruits, plants, and flowers
The thousand things
Of which these are specimens
Each a world of study within itself.