Friday, April 08, 2005


Sandberg's Lincoln

I received a multitude of packages for my birthday and for Easter from friends and family. The generosity of all these special people in my life is humbling, and touched me deeply. (The goodies added to my girth, but this week I’m back to PT with a vengeance.)

I don’t mean to single any one gift out, and I only do by way of posting something very meaningful to me. Kathy from my church sent me Carl Sandburg’s Abraham Lincoln, The Prairie Years and The War Years.

I think this book is still considered the quintessential Lincoln biography, I know my father considered it a valued addition to his (and his grandfather’s) quite large library, and an absolute must for covering the Civil War.

I dipped into Sandburg’s introduction, and I wanted to share some gems that he shares, with his fine eye for essential information. He quotes numerous Lincoln admirers, each noting that years and years of study leave Lincoln more complex, impenetrable, or still familiar but with a profile more “deeply etched.”

Long time readers of this blog may know my abiding appreciation for Lincoln, the moreso as I continue to recognize the chords of his great rhetoric in the best speeches of our current President.

At the pinnacle of his introduction, Sandberg choses two wonderful quotations. Sandburg first reminds us of an old eulogy, long remembered but not always properly attributed, in a speech by Homer Hoch, U.S. Representative from Kansas, delivered February 12, 1923, to U.S. House of Representatives:
There is no new thing to be said about Lincoln. There is no new thing to be said of the mountains, or of the sea, or of the stars. The years go their way, but the same old mountains lift their granite shoulders above the drifting clouds; the same mysterious sea beats upon the shore; the same silent stars keep holy vigil above a tired world. But to the mountains and sea and stars, men turn forever in unwearied homage. And thus with Lincoln. For he was a mountain in grandeur of soul, he was a sea in deep undervoice of mystic loneliness, he was a star in steadfast purity of purpose and service. And he abides.
Next, Sandberg recovers a touching epitaph delivered by the great Brazilian Abolitionist Joaquin Nabuco in 1909, on the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. Nabuco by this time was Brazil’s Ambassador to Washington D.C. His words reveal a startling applicability to our current Democracy movements and our Global War on Terror:

With the increased velocity of modern changes, we do not know what the world will be a hundred years hence. For sure, the ideals of the generation of the year 2000 will not be the same of the generation of the year 1900. Nations will then be governed by currents of political thought which we can no more anticipate than the seventeenth century could anticipate the political currents of the eighteenth, which still in part sway us. But whether the spirit of authority, or that of freedom, increases, Lincoln’s legend will ever appear more luminous in the amalgamation of centuries, because he supremely incarnated both those spirits.
As I read through Sandberg’s Lincoln, I am sure I will share such treasures as I find. Wish me well.

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