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Lincoln, the Man of the People

BY EDWIN MARKHAM

When the Norn Mother saw the Whirlwind Hour
Greatening and darkening as it hurried on,
She left the Heaven of Heroes and came down
To make a man to meet the mighty need.
She took the tried clay of the common road--
Clay warm yet with the genial neat of earth,
Dashed through it all a strain of prophecy,
Tempered the heap with touch of mortal tears;
Then mixed a laughter with the serious stuff.
The color of the ground was in him, the red earth,
The tang and odor of the primal things --
The rectitude and patience of the rocks;
The gladness of the wind that shakes the corn;
The courage of the bird that dares the sea;
The justice of the rain that loves all leaves;
The pity of the snow that hides all scars;
The loving kindness of the wayside well;
The tolerance and equity of light
That gives as freely to the shrinking weed

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As to the great o'ak flaring to the wind--
To the grave's low hill as to the Matterhorn.
That shoulders out the sky.

And so he came.
From prairie cabin up to Capitol,
One fair ideal led our chieftain on.
Forevermore he burned to do his deed
With the fine stroke and gesture of a king.
He built the rail pile as he built the State,
Pouring his splendid strength through every blow,
The conscience of him testing every stroke,
To make his deed the measure of a man.

So came the Captain with the mighty heart;
And when the step of earthquake shook the house,
Wrenching the rafters from their ancient hold,
He held the ridgepole up and spiked again
The rafters of the Home. He held his place--
Held the long purpose like a growing tree --
Held on through blame and faltered not at praise.
And when he fell in whirlwind, he went down
As when a kingly cedar green with boughs,
Goes down with a great shout upon the hills,
And leaves a lonesome place against the sky.

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Notes

From "Lincoln and Other Poems," published by McClure, Phillips and Co., New York. This poem revised and copyrighted, 1906, by Edwin Markham.