Post Reply 
Who wrote the lines of poetry "quoted" by Lincoln at the Soldiers' Home?
01-31-2016, 12:05 AM
Post: #13
RE: Who wrote the lines of poetry "quoted" by Lincoln at the Soldiers' Home?
(01-30-2016 12:06 AM)ELCore Wrote:  I reflect from time to time on the unbelievable power of the Internet as a source of knowledge.

One thing I think of in this regard is "Mortality", Lincoln's favorite poem. He spent, literally, most of his adult life wishing he knew who had written that poem.

He did not find out until he was president, and one of his generals heard Lincoln refer to, or quote from, the poem. Recognizing it, the general (I forget whom) sent Lincoln the book from which the general knew the poem.

General James Grant Wilson informed Lincoln that Scottish poet William Knox was the author.

Mr. Lincoln frequently recited from memory, “Oh why should the spirit of mortal be proud!” A poem from William Knox written early in the 19th century. Mr. Lincoln, however, was long unaware of the poem’s author. Union officer James Grant Wilson recalled: “I called at the White House once with Isaac N. Arnold, a member of Congress from Chicago. In the course of conversation the President expressed his admiration for Dr. Holmes’s poem The Last Leaf . . . ."

“His favorite poem, he said, was one entitled Mortality, the author of which he had failed to discover, although he had tried to do so for twenty years. I was pleased to be able to inform him that it was written by William Knox, a young Scottish poet who died in 1825. He was greatly interested, and was still more gratified by the receipt, not long afterwards of a collection of Knox’s poems, containing his favorite, which had appeared in hundreds of newspapers throughout the country, and had been frequently attributed to him (Lincoln).”

-- Rufus Rockwell Wilson, Intimate Memories of Lincoln, pp. 423-424 (James Grant Wilson,Putnam’s Magazine, February-March, 1909).

David James Harkness and R. Gerald McMurtry, Lincoln’s Favorite Poets
(Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1959)

It took me some time, but I found the answer using Google. I remember reading the story somewhere but forgot where. Searching through indexes of various books in my possession yielded no positive results. So, it was back to a Google search.

The book by Rufus Rockwell Wilson, "Intimate Memories of Lincoln," has one of my favorite Lincoln stories which I posted years ago - a little girl appealed to Lincoln to help her father and Lincoln did so.

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
Post Reply 

Messages In This Thread
RE: Who wrote the lines of poetry "quoted" by Lincoln at the Soldiers' Home? - David Lockmiller - 01-31-2016 12:05 AM

Forum Jump:

User(s) browsing this thread: 2 Guest(s)