Listen to the land; Abraham Lincoln: A silhouette
I. Listened to the land a profile of a nation in terms of its living language. This week Abraham Lincoln a silhouette. By sharing aloud the writings of our country past and present we can come to a fuller appreciation of those things which are meaningful to us as Americans and perhaps of the nature of our role in a contemporary world. This week's program is a prose silhouette of Abraham Lincoln in his own words and in words written about him. Listen to the land is produced by station w h y y Philadelphia under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. Now here is your host and writer Richard S. birdie. Thank you Jim. The earliest known composition by Abraham Lincoln consists of
two lines. Abraham Lincoln is hand and pen. It will be good. But God knows when those lines written in a copy book going Abe was eleven years old show The Uncommon Sense which would reveal itself time and again throughout his life. In their book homespun America published by Simon and Schuster Wallace Brockway and Bart Keith want to write as follows. His philosophy was homely. He invented no new truths only illuminated the old but the light shone with the warmth and beauty of the western sun. Lincoln knew when to play the clown when the wise man campaigning for the Illinois legislature in 1832 He said My politics are short and sweet like the old woman's dance and made his points one two three. If he had one vice he once remarked it was his inability to say No thank God for not making me a woman he added. But if he had I
suppose he would have made me just as ugly as a dead and no one would have tempted me. We know that despite his good humor and genius for the common touch. One of the most controversial figures ever to illuminate the American scene was the man who was born on Nolan Creek Hardin County Kentucky but worried twelve eighteen hundred nine perhaps no other American president as inspired so much controversy vituperation and admiration so much worship and condemnation as a Lincoln. Part of this turbulence of course in fact the root of it was the civil war. And yet today North and South alike seem to accept the historical fact of the war itself and not to personalize it. In the lonely figure who was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in Ford's Theater Washington on the night of April 14 1865 Maurice Thompson spoke for many Southerners then and now when he wrote the poem Lincoln's grave
the lines of which reflect so beautifully the integrity and the dignity of Southern thought and feeling may one who fought an honor for the South uncovered stand and sing by Lincoln's grave. Why if I shrunk not at the cannon's mouth nor swerved one inch for any battle wave. Should I now tremble in this quiet close hearing the Prairie Wind Golightly by from billowy plains of grass and miles of corn while out of deep repose the great sweet spirit lifts itself on high and broods above our land the summer morn. Me seems I feel his presence. Is he dead. Death is a word he lives and grander grows at Gettysburg he bows his bleeding head. He spreads his arms were Chickamauga flows as if to clasp old soldiers to his breast of south or north
no matter which they be not thinking of what uniform they wore his heart upon c'est record on record of humanity where love is first and last for evermore. It was the southern mother leaning forth that dead of night to hear the cannon roar beseeching God to turn the cruel north and break it that her son might come once more. He was New England's maiden pale and pure whose gallant lover fell on Shiloh's plane. It was the mangled body of the dead. He writhing didn't your wounds and disfigurement and racking pain Gang Green and happy taken all things dread. It was the north the south the east the west the thrall of the master all of us in one. There was no section that he held the best his love shown as impartial as the sun.
And so revenge appealed to him in vain. He smiled at it as a thing for Lorne and gently put it from him rose and stood a moment's space in pain remembering the primaries and the corn and the glad voices of the field and wood. And then one piece set wing upon the wind and northward flying fanned the clouds away. He passed as markers pass. You'll find the cord. The sound the pathos of that day. Mid-April blowing sweet across the land. New bloom of freedom opening to the world. Loud play on the homeward looking host the salutations grand from grimy guns the tattered flags unfurled and he must sleep to all the glory lost sleep loss. But there is
neither sleep nor loss. And all the glory mentalism about about his breast the precious banners crossed does he not here is armies tramp and shout Oh every kiss of mother wife all made dashed on the grisly lip a veteran comes forth right to that calm and quiet mouth and will not be delayed. And every slave no longer slave but man sends up a blessing from the broken self. He is not dead. France knows he is not dead. He stirs strong hearts in Spain and Germany in fire Siberian mines as words are said. He tells the English. Ireland will be free. He calls poor serfs about him in the night and whispers of a power that laughs at kings and of a force that breaks the strongest chains. Old tyranny feels as might tearing away its deepest fastenings and jewelled scepters threaten him in vain. Years pass away but
freedom does not pass Thrones crumble that man's birthright crumbles not unlike the wind across the prairie grass the whole world's aspirations. Fine this spot with ceaseless panting after Liberty one breath of which would make dark Russia fair and blow sweet summer through the exiles cave and set the exile free. Which I pray here in the open air of Freedom's morning tide by Lincoln's grave. Lincoln's mother Nancy Hanks died when she was 34 years of age and say Hanks had a limited education but she was noted for her intellectual force of character. Here's a very brief very moving poem written by Rosemary Benet called Nancy Hanks.
If Nancy Hanks came back as a ghost seeking news of what she loved most she'd ask first where is my son. What's happened to Ava. What's he done. Poor little Abe left all alone except for Tom was a rolling stone. He was only 9 the year I died. I remember still how hard he cried scraping along a little shack with hardly a shirt to cover his back and a prairie wind to blow him down or pinching times if he went to town you wouldn't know about my son. Did he grow tall. Did he have fun. Did he learn to read. Did he get to town. Do you know his name. Did he get on. There's been much controversy through the years. In fact it had its genesis during Lincoln's life
time as to his actual convictions about slavery and freedom of the individual in the part they played in his philosophy of the War Between the States and remains for Lincoln himself to take the stand in his own words as your usual words of direct simplicity and inspiring eloquence. The words were written to his friend Horace Greeley publisher of The New York Tribune. In response to a statement of inquiry on the subject which appeared in that great paper on August 19 1862 three days later the president replied as follows. Honorable Horace Greeley. DEAR SIR I have just read yours of the 19th addressed to myself to the New York Tribune. If there be in it any statements of assumptions of fact which I may know to be erroneous I do not now and hear controvert them. If there be in it any inferences which I may believe to be falsely drawn I do not now and here argue against them. If there be perceptible in it an impatient and dictatorial tone I wave it in deference to an old friend
whose heart I have always supposed to be right as to the policy I seem to be pursuing. As you say I have not meant to leave anyone in doubt. I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored the nearer the union will be. The union it was if there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery. I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it. And if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it. And if I could be do it by freeing some men leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery in the colored race I do because I believe it helps to save the Union.
And what I forbear I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause and I shall do more Whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views. I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty and I intend no modification of my oft expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free. Yours. A Lincoln in planning a programme on the subject of Abraham Lincoln. A writer may be forgiven if he instinctively has the impulse to include the Gettysburg Address. Certainly one of the most eloquent documents in the English language and the most famous of
Lincoln's notable writings the writer may also be forgiven if he has a secondary impulse to reject the Gettysburg Address for the very reason of the initial impulse one which is to avoid being hackneyed or obvious and yet to attempt a prose profile of Abraham Lincoln without including the Gettysburg Address would be akin to sketching the profile in charcoal or pen in ink. But for shortening the nose or excluding a suggestion of the mole. And so without further apology or explanation I'm going to include that inspiring and suck sync masterpiece the Encyclopedia Brittanica gives a forward to the address stating that the battle of Gettysburg was fought on the first second and third days of July 1863 on Nov. 19 of the same year a portion of the battlefield which was dedicated as a final resting place for those who had died there. The main address on that occasion was one of two hours in length delivered by Edward Everett.
The best known orator of the time after his address Lincoln delivered the short speech so famous Lincoln had begun the preparation of his address the day before the dedication while still in Washington. After reaching Gettysburg he spent a portion of the evening and of the next morning in finishing the address writing it out partly in ink and partly in pencil. At the time almost no attention was paid to this address being relegated to the inner pages of the newspapers while Edward Everetts elaborate oration received unqualified praise it was not until many years later that the address became recognized as one of the classic utterances of all time. It is interesting to note however that Edward Everett wrote to Mr. Lincoln on the day following the address saying I wish that I could flatter myself that I had come as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes. The following is the text of
the Gettysburg Address from the final manuscript copy which Lincoln prepared for publication. It is also the text inscribed in granite at the Lincoln Memorial Washington D.C.. Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should
do this. But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate we cannot consecrate we cannot have all this ground. The brave men living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note no long remember what we say here but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so Nobili advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. That
we here highly resolve that these dead still not have died in vain that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth. The purple lilacs bloomed April the 14th of the year 1865. And the shining air held a balance of miracles good and evil. Thus begins Carl Sandburg's the Warriors on Good Friday April 14 1865 the day Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. These opening paragraphs of the Warriors are among the most moving and beautiful of anything Sandburg ever wrote. It is impossible to read the
words without being freed of the bondage of time and becoming a part of that fateful day in history. The purple lilacs bloomed April 14th of the year 1865 and the shining air held a balance of miracles. Good and evil runs on the White House lawn shuttered a fast evil gossip soon forgotten. Cardinals streaked in crimson curves and whistled happy landing on tall tree tops. A very thrush and a brown thrush in a circle of Bush's poured out a living waterfall of song. The oaks and just nots stood grave and thoughtful from any window of the Honorable executive mansion they were beyond approach in mist or moonlight or noonday sun. They kept their serene stature and measured men without praise or blame. The sidewalk passers by glanced through the iron fence pickets to see how the White House
looked this morning of April the 14th Teamsters and horsemen rattling over the street cobble stones took their look too at the famous old house where all the presidents since Washington had made a home. Not till long afterward did they know they might have listened for deep sea bells calling and looked for a dream ship and studied over the fabrics of fate and the Brotherhood's of dust and shadow. Did any lover of trees have a DAYBREAK dream of a great oak on a high hill under the flash of a lightning prong crushing down helpless. A loss for all time to the winds and Sky who had loved it and not known how much they loved it. Did any negro preacher notify the world before hand that the great almighty on the white throne had spoken to the angel on the Pale Horse saying go down now go down to the United States to Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River
and find Washington D.C. and find one man for me there and touch him on the shoulder and tell him it's time for him to come. I'm wanting him here. His time is up to day. Did any fortune teller and a dealer in abracadabra and the reader of the mystic crystal ball see that day a phantom horse a skeleton rider on a skeleton steed a rider with a red rose in his teeth. A grim rider laughing softly as though he might be a bringer of Judgment Day a keeper of a doomsday book singing John Brown's Body lies a moldering singing Go Down Moses let my people go singing of The Grapes of Wrath trampled red and crushed scalloped. And how in the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea a white skull rider with a flame rose in his teeth. Did any poet or genius of imagination a picture of the ancient crowded hall of
Valhalla alive with tumult over a newcomer arrival who would stand before them only a trifle abashed drawling. Well this reminds me. Now there seem to be nothing foretold in essential particulars except to the dreamer himself most concerned who had it from a dream he accepted himself not in the slightest aware of the way the method the arrangements the timing. Walt Whitman the Voice of America singing new Abe Lincoln. Loved him deeply mourn his death. The combination resulted in a poem of mourning that has become an American classic. Oh captain my captain
our fearful trip is done. The ship has weathered every rack the prize we sought is won the port is near the bells I hear the people all exulting while follow lies the steady keel the vessel grim and daring but a heart heart heart oh the bleeding drops of red. We're on the deck my captain lies fallen cold and dead. Oh Captain My Captain. Rise up and hear the bells rise up for you the flag is flung for you the bugle trills for you a bookcase and ribbon wreaths for you the shores a crowding for you they call the swaying my eyes their eager faces turning. Here Captain dear father this arm beneath your head. It is some dream that on the deck you fall in cold and dead. My captain does not answer his lips pale still.
My father does not feel my army has no pulse no will. The ship is I guard safe and sound. Its voyage closed undone from fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object one exult those shores in a ring no bells. But I was a mournful tread walked the deck my captain lies fallen cold and dead. So many of the writings about Abraham Lincoln have become classics that one must place himself above apology for including them. Certainly any programme on Abraham Lincoln that failed to include a certain probing and moving poem by VHA Lindsay would become the weaker for it. The poem is Lindsay's Abraham Lincoln walks at midnight in Springfield Illinois.
It is portentous and a thing of state that here at midnight in our little town a mourning figure walks and will not rest in the old courthouse pacing up and down or by his homestead or in shadow yards he lingers where his children used to play or through the market on the well-worn stones he stocks until the dawn stars burn away. A bronzed like man his suit of ancient block of famous high topped pot in plain worn shawl make his the quite great figure that men love the prairie lawyer meister of us all. He cannot sleep upon his hillside now he is among us as in times before and we who toss and lie awake for a long
breathed deep and start to see him past the door. His head is bogged. He thinks on man and kings. Yea when the sick world weeps how can he sleep. Too many peasants fight they know not why to many homesteads and Black Terror weep the sins of all the warlords burn his heart. He sees the Dreadnoughts scouring every mane he carries on his shoulder up shoulders now the bitterness of folly and the pain he cannot rest until a spirit dawns you'll come the shining hope of Europe free. The League of sober folk the workers earth bringing along peace to corn lined out and see. It breaks his heart that men must murder still. But all his hours of
travail here fall men seem yet in vain. And who will bring white peace that he may sleep upon his hill again. You're. Sure. The. And so we have listened to the land in the words of one by one of its most beloved ALL bit controversial figures. Abraham Lincoln. The 16th president of the United States. It is impossible in a limited time to paint a dimensional portrait of any man. Let alone a figure so complex as Lincoln. But we hope in this profile in prose. We have provided a pleasurable and proportioned
experience. Two weeks hence by way of contrast will attempt another literary silhouette of an equally memorable beloved and controversial president George Washington. Next week however there will be an interlude change of pace. While we answer a number of requests to read some standards that have stood the test of time we'll call the program a sampler of popular favorites and I hope it will include one of yours I hope on the chance that you'll plan to join me one week from now when once again we listen to the wind. Until then this is Dick Burdick saying thanks for being with me. And so long. Listen to the land was produced and recorded at station w h y y Philadelphia
- Listen to the land
- Abraham Lincoln: A silhouette
- Producing Organization
- WHYY (Radio station : Philadelphia, Pa.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program focuses on American writings about Abraham Lincoln.
- Series Description
- America's literary heritage is explored through readings of short stories, poems, folklore, journalism and legends. The series is narrated by Richard S. Burdick.
- Broadcast Date
- Media type
Announcer: Keeler, James
Host: Burdick, Richard S.
Producing Organization: WHYY (Radio station : Philadelphia, Pa.)
Writer: Nash, Ogden, 1902-1971
Writer: Thompson, Maurice, 1844-1901
Writer: Bene_t, Rosemary, 1900-1962
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 60-54-9 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “Listen to the land; Abraham Lincoln: A silhouette,” 1960-11-02, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 2, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-x63b491t.
- MLA: “Listen to the land; Abraham Lincoln: A silhouette.” 1960-11-02. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 2, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-x63b491t>.
- APA: Listen to the land; Abraham Lincoln: A silhouette. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-x63b491t