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Abraham Lincoln and the Influence of

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Rachel Rummell

on 3 August 2016

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Transcript of Abraham Lincoln and the Influence of

The Copybook Verses
“Abraham Lincoln is my nam[e]
And with my pen I wrote the same
I wrote in both hast and speed
And left it here for fools to read” (1824-1826)

The earliest piece of Lincoln’s poetry was found in his cyphering (math) textbook dated between 1824-1826. The cyphering book also contains the oldest surviving example of his handwriting, and the little rhyme that was included upon the top of a page is now referred to as the Copybook Verses. The included verse not only displays a rudimentary form of penmanship practice, but the carefree nature of an adolescent student.
The cyphering book was comprised of twenty-two remaining pages (eleven leaves) consistent with the abbaco arithmetic curriculum of Lincoln’s youth (Clements and Nerida 1). The book was passed down to Lincoln’s law partner and biographer, William H. Herndon by Lincoln’s step-mother Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln (Basler). Although the pages were at one time dispersed and later reorganized, the book confirms Lincoln’s 1859 autobiographical statement of being able to cypher “to the rule of three” (housedividedproject). It is also argued that Lincoln’s mathematical skills exceeded the “rule of three” and that this extant text was one of many.
Perhaps influenced by Dilworth’s
A New Guide to the English Tongue
and Scott’s
Lessons in Elocution
, Lincoln was known for his fondness of poetry. In his youth, he often memorized, recited admired works from popular texts, and often composed prose of his own (Armenti, 2012). “Abraham Lincoln his hand and pen he will be good but god knows when” (1824-1826). The poetic innocence, resembling that of a childhood nursery rhyme, depicts the lighthearted temperament of an adolescent boy sing-songing his way through his lessons. The lines note that only god will know when he will be good; therefore, when Lincoln's education will be complete. The continued poetic prose of the piece takes on a whimsical, metaphoric tone. Comparing time to an empty vaper and the day as swift as an Indian arrow, the Copybook Verses become more of a poetic free-verse than a simple penmanship exercise tucked away in a math book.
Later in life, Lincoln developed a fondness for Shakespeare as noted in his 1863 letter to comedic actor James Hackett, “I think nothing equals Macbeth. It is wonderful” (Armenti, 2012). Lincoln also grew to appreciate the darkness of poets such as Edgar Allan Poe and Oliver Wendell Holmes. In his later writings and speeches, specifically “The Gettysburg Address”, Lincoln uses prose that is poetic in nature to captivate his audience. The incorporation of the Copybook Verses into his cyphering book provides insight into Lincoln’s good nature and his poetic vision, all while chasing his life-long quest for knowledge.
A Depiction of a Young Lincoln Reading by the Fire
http://lincolnlibraryandmuseum.com/m1.htm
The Copybook Verses
Gentryville, Indiana

"Abraham Lincoln his hand and pen he will be good but god knows When Abraham Lincoln his hand and pen he will be good but god knows When Time What an emty vaper tis and days how swift they are swift as an indian arr[ow] fly on like a shooting star the presant moment Just [is here] then slides away in h[as]te that we [can] never say they ['re ours] but [only say] th[ey]'re past Abraham Lincoln is my nam[e] And with my pen I wrote the same I wrote in both hast and speed and left it here for fools to read."


– Copybook Verses, Gentryvill, IN, 1824-1826, Roy P. Basler, ed., Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (8 vols., New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 1:1

Project by: Rachel Rummell
Abraham Lincoln and the Poetry of Our Nation
The Copybook Verses:
Close Reading
On April 18, 1846, Abraham Lincoln composed a letter to friend, newspaper editor, and fellow Whig, Andrew Johnston (Ankrom 2). In this letter, Lincoln discussed his enjoyment from poetry, in particular, a parody of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” title “The Pole-Cat” in which a cat torments a farmer and his hens. The letter begins “Friend Johnston” and referenced a letter by Johnston written and received well over six weeks ago. In the first paragraph, Lincoln acknowledges that as speculated/suggested, he has not become familiar with Poe’s “The Raven” and understands that in order to fully appreciate “The Pole-Cat” he must have read the original. However, Lincoln noted that even ignorant of “The Raven”, he still laughed aloud; “I think four of five of the last stanzas are decidedly funny…”. This paragraph provides insight directly into Lincoln’s personality through his sense of humor. His ability to appreciate the humor of such a piece, even minus the knowledge of the original, and to highlight what gave him “several hearty laughs” reveals a jovial side to a man often depicted as serious in nature.
Lincoln's 1846 Letter to Andrew Johnston
Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865)
Autograph letter, signed, Fremont, to Andrew Johnston, 18 April 1846
Shapell Manuscript Collection; SMF 1553
What Else Does Lincoln Reveal In This letter?

Lincoln’s letter indicated that he and Johnston frequently communicated and often sent each other poetry selections. Lincoln noted that he no longer had Johnston’s letter before him, but he remembered an anonymous piece previously sent. Lincoln addressed the piece and Johnston’s question of his potential authorship. Lincoln roughly stated: you asked me who wrote that piece, suspicious it may have been me; however, it was not. Lincoln notes that he stumbled upon the poem; he “met it in straggling form in a newspaper last summer”, and in fact, he had seen it some 15 years prior even before that. This second paragraph of Lincoln’s letter to Johnston provides the most revealing information in regards to Lincoln’s poetic nature thus far. When referring to the poem and its mystery author he writes, “…I would give all I am worth, and go in debt, to be able to write so fine a piece as I think that is…”. Lincoln, the poetry aficionado, wishes that his skill level matched that of a previously shared poem. His harsh critique of his own work shows that he took the art of poetry seriously.


A copy of “The Pole-Cat” was published in the
Bulletin of the Abraham Lincoln Association
in Springfield, Illinois. Volume 58, no.1.
My childhood’s home I see again
And sadden with the view;
And still, as memory crowds my brain
There’s pleasure in it too-
O Memory! thou midway world
‘Twixt earth and paradise,
Where things decayed, and loved ones lost
In dreamy shadows rise,
And, freed from all that’s earthly vile,
Seem hallowed, pure and bright,
Like scenes in some enchanted isle
All bathed in liquid light-
As dusky mountains please the eye
When twilight chases day-
As bugle-notes, that, passing by
In distance die away-
As leaving some grand waterfall,
We, lingering list its roar
So memory will hallow all
We’ve known, but know no more-
Near twenty years have passed away
Since here I bid farewell
To woods and fields, and scenes of play,
And playmates loved so well-
Where many were, but few remain
Of old familiar things;
But seeing them, to mind again
The lost and absent brings-
The friends I left that parting day-
How changed, as time has sped!
Young childhood grown, strong manhood gray,
And half of all are dead-
I hear the lone survivors tell
How nought from death could save,
Till every sound appears a knell,
And every spot, a grave.
I range the fields with pensive tread
And pace the hollow rooms;
And feel (companion of the dead)
I’m living in the tombs-


Lincoln's "Reflection" as included in his letter Andrew Johnston
Lincoln's childhood home recreated courtesy of the National Park Service
https://www.nps.gov/libo/planyourvisit/index.htm
Pages 3 and 4 of the letter to Johnston including Lincoln's own poetry

Lincoln's Indiana
"Within the boundaries of Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial lies the gravesite of Nancy Hanks Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln's mother. The impact of her life, and her death, did much to shape the character of the boy who grew up to become President. The desire to commemorate her life has done much to shape the development of the national memorial.'" https://www.nps.gov/libo/planyourvisit/maps.htm
Transcript of Lincoln's Letter to Andrew Johnston
Tremont, April 18, 1846.

Friend Johnston:

Your letter, written some six weeks since was received in due course, and also the paper with the parody- It is true, as suggested it might be, that I have never seen Poe’s “Raven”; and I very well know that a
parody is almost entirely dependent for its interest upon the reader’s acquaintance with the original- Still, there is enough in the polecat, self-considered, to afford one several hearty laughs-
I think four or five of the last stanzas are decidedly funny- particularly where Jeremiah “scrubbed, and washed, and prayed and fasted’-‘

I have not your letter now before me, but from memory, I think you ask me who is the author of the piece I sent you, and that you do so ask, as to indicate a slight suspicion that I myself am the author-
Beyond all question, I am not the author; I would give all I am worth, and go in debt, to be able to write so fine a piece as I think that is- Neither do I know who is the author-
I met it in a straggling form in a newspaper last summer; and I remember to have seen it once before, about fifteen years before; and this is all I know about it.

The piece of poetry of my own which I alluded to, I was led to write under the following circumstances- In the fall of 1844, thinking I might aid some to carry the State of Indiana for Mr. Clay, I went into the neighborhood in that State, in which I was raised, where my mother
and only sister were buried, and from which I had been absent about fifteen years. That part of the country, is, within itself, as unpoetical, as any spot of the earth; but still, seeing it, and its objects and inhabitants aroused feelings in me, which were certainly poetry;
though whether my expression of those feelings is poetry is quite another question- When I got to writing, the change of subjects divided the thing into four little divisions or cantos, the first only of which I send you now and may send the others hereafter. Yours truly,

A. Lincoln.


Lincoln and "Reflection"
Lincoln’s reminiscent tone acknowledges the changes that he saw upon returning to Indiana, including the evolution of both the place and the people and the deaths of former playmates. Lincoln’s word choice represents a philosophical, yet melancholy feeling that one experiences in returning home after being away only to find that it has changed. He utilizes the imagery of light and dark to capture this emotion. The reader gains further insight into the sensitivity of Lincoln through this particular poem. The sentimental nature in both topic, tone, and technique emphasize Lincoln’s poetic skill and pensive personality.


The Significance of Lincoln's Poetry
Abraham Lincoln’s 1846 letter to Andrew Johnston is significant in the study of Lincoln because it reveals personal aspects of Lincoln’s life that many students never become aware of. Through this letter we see the private side of Abraham Lincoln; we are allowed a peek into his friendship, his humor, his sentimentality regarding his childhood home, and his love of the art of poetry. Lincoln’s 1846 letter offers the scholar valuable insight into Lincoln, the man, and not simply the lawyer, politician, or President that we are more familiar with. The letter also provides the reader with a personal example of Lincoln’s poetic style and technique that we often see in his more popular speeches.
On February 25, 1847 Lincoln wrote Johnston regarding the publication of his poetry, including "Reflection", in the Quincy Whig. Lincoln gave his consent as long as his work remained anonymous and encouraged Johnston to include in the publication some of his own writing as well.
Lincoln the Published Bard
Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865)
Autograph letter, signed, Springfield, to Andrew Johnston, 25 February 1847
Shapell Manuscript Collection; SMF 353
On May 5, 1847 Johnston published Lincoln’s first canto "Reflection" along side canto two in the Quincy Whig. Together they became “My Childhood Home I See Again”.
My childhood's home I see again,
And sadden with the view;
And still, as memory crowds my brain,
There's pleasure in it too.

O Memory! thou midway world
'Twixt earth and paradise,
Where things decayed and loved ones lost
In dreamy shadows rise,

And, freed from all that's earthly vile,
Seem hallowed, pure, and bright,
Like scenes in some enchanted isle
All bathed in liquid light.

As dusky mountains please the eye
When twilight chases day;
As bugle-tones that, passing by,
In distance die away;

As leaving some grand waterfall,
We, lingering, list its roar--
So memory will hallow all
We've known, but know no more.

Near twenty years have passed away
Since here I bid farewell
To woods and fields, and scenes of play,
And playmates loved so well.

Where many were, but few remain
Of old familiar things;
But seeing them, to mind again
The lost and absent brings.

The friends I left that parting day,
How changed, as time has sped!
Young childhood grown, strong manhood gray,
And half of all are dead.

I hear the loved survivors tell
How nought from death could save,
Till every sound appears a knell,
And every spot a grave.

I range the fields with pensive tread,
And pace the hollow rooms,
And feel (companion of the dead)
I'm living in the tombs.


[II]

But here's an object more of dread
Than ought the grave contains--
A human form with reason fled,
While wretched life remains.

Poor Matthew! Once of genius bright,
A fortune-favored child--
Now locked for aye, in mental night,
A haggard mad-man wild.

Poor Matthew! I have ne'er forgot,
When first, with maddened will,
Yourself you maimed, your father fought,
And mother strove to kill;

When terror spread, and neighbors ran,
Your dange'rous strength to bind;
And soon, a howling crazy man
Your limbs were fast confined.

How then you strove and shrieked aloud,
Your bones and sinews bared;
And fiendish on the gazing crowd,
With burning eye-balls glared--

And begged, and swore, and wept and prayed
With maniac laught[ter?] joined--
How fearful were those signs displayed
By pangs that killed thy mind!

And when at length, tho' drear and long,
Time smoothed thy fiercer woes,
How plaintively thy mournful song
Upon the still night rose.

I've heard it oft, as if I dreamed,
Far distant, sweet, and lone--
The funeral dirge, it ever seemed
Of reason dead and gone.

To drink it's strains, I've stole away,
All stealthily and still,
Ere yet the rising God of day
Had streaked the Eastern hill.

Air held his breath; trees, with the spell,
Seemed sorrowing angels round,
Whose swelling tears in dew-drops fell
Upon the listening ground.

But this is past; and nought remains,
That raised thee o'er the brute.
Thy piercing shrieks, and soothing strains,
Are like, forever mute.

Now fare thee well--more thou the cause,
Than subject now of woe.
All mental pangs, by time's kind laws,
Hast lost the power to know.

O death! Thou awe-inspiring prince,
That keepst the world in fear;
Why dost thos tear more blest ones hence,
And leave him ling'ring here?
Lincoln's last documented poem was written in 1863. He wrote a comedic tale of a bear hunt roughly a month after his election to the U.S. House of Representatives. This satirical poem may well be “the third canto” that Lincoln referenced in his letter to Andrew Johnston on 25 February 1847.
Lincoln and "The Bear Hunt"
“The Bear Hunt,” Springfield, ca. 6 September 1846
The Morgan Library & Museum, purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1905; MA 229.1
Lincoln's Poetry That Shaped the Nation: The Gettysburg Address
As part of teaching American Literature last year, and in the close reading and analysis of primary documents, I utilized the following lesson and resources found on the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History's website. This lesson focuses not only on the content of the speech, but the rhetoric as well.

I would now modify this lesson and have students focus on word choice and rhetoric in relation to Lincoln's zeal for poetry. For a summative assessment I would have students write a paragraph explaining and providing specific example of how Lincoln's life-long love of poetry is depicted in/or influenced this speech.


https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/american-civil-war/resources/gettysburg-address-identifying-text-context-and-subtext
The Method to My Madness
The following Prezi presentation would be part of a unit focusing on the rhetorical and poetic writing style of Abraham Lincoln with a final close reading of “The Gettysburg Address”. The intended audience would be my American Literature students (juniors and seniors in high school). Last year, I utilized the unit lesson on “The Gettysburg Address” provided by the Gilder Lehrman’s Institute of American History website. My students enjoyed the close reading of the speech, but I discovered that they knew very little about Abraham Lincoln-the person. Of course, a few could regurgitate a few facts about his life; however, most were unfamiliar with his self-made status, his law career, or even his first-failed attempt in politics. To humanize Lincoln, I introduced students to the letters written to and from Grace Bedell in November of 1860. To enhance this lesson, I feel that focusing on Lincoln’s poetry provides insight not only into his character but connects well with the course topic of American Literature. I would divide this Prezi presentation over the course of several days so that students can read each piece of his poetry with a critical eye. I would then begin the lesson “The Gettysburg Address: Identifying Text, Context, and Subtext” by Angelia Moore found on the Gilder Lehrman website. I would conclude this lesson with a summative assessment in which students write a paragraph explaining and providing specific example of how Lincoln's life-long love of poetry is depicted in/or influenced this speech. I would then have students compose a piece of poetry of their own focusing on the topics of childhood or returning to one’s childhood home. These pieces would be composed and published using technology or writing and art to become a piece of the classroom landscape.
Additional Resources

• http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/autobiog.htm
• Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865). Autograph letter, signed, Fremont, to Andrew Johnston, 18 April 1846. Shapell Manuscript Collection; SMF 1553.
• Abraham Lincoln to Andrew Johnston, 18 April 1846, in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (8 vols., New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 1: 377-379, http://quod.lib.umich.edu/l/lincoln/.
• Ankrom, Reg. "Whig Editor Shared Love of Poetry with Lincoln." Herald-Whig. Herald-Whig, 06 Mar. 2016. Web. 19 July 2016.
• Aremnti, Peter. “Abraham Lincoln and Poetry”. Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/lincolnpoetry/. August, 28, 2012.
• Bulletin. [Vol. 58, no. 1], Abraham Lincoln Association (Springfield, Ill.)
• Clements, McKenzie A. and Nerida F. Ellerton. “Abraham Lincoln’s Cyphering Book and the Abbaco Tradition”. Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association. Volume 36, issue 1, Winter 2015, pp.-17.
• Copybook Verses, in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (8 vols., New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 1: 2, http://quod.lib.umich.edu/l/lincoln/.
• Pinsker, Matthew, ed. Lincoln’s Writings: The Multi-Media Edition. http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites/lincoln/permissions-and-citations/ (accessed July 3, 2016).
• ushistoryimages.com. Source. Montgomery, D. H. The Beginner's American History. Boston: Ginn and Company, 1902.




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