Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Remembering Mr. Lincoln

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.

Discussions - 3 Comments

Sorry, but an unworthy (of Lincoln and of Kaplan's artful arrangement) thought occurs...Could this be where John Rawls got his absurd notion that a life of "counting blades of grass" could not be objectively said to be less worthy than any other way of life?

Interesting above is the way "droughts" and "pests" subtly enter the things we are invited to consider the "relative merits" of.

Interesting, but the Wisconsin speech has to do with civilization and an attempt to show that labor and education are not incompatible. Education is "cultivated thought."

Even excepting its subject matter, you have to marvel at how Whitmanesque the resulting poem is.

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