Some Brief Comments on Whitman, Sandburg, & Lincoln


Carl Sandburg

Walt Whitman

In the book Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and The War Years Illustrated Edition by Carl Sandburg there are some noteworthy comments made in the section: Lincoln’s Poet and the Poet’s Lincoln.  It mentions that Sandburg considered himself as “Whitman’s disciple.” Of course, the Whitman referred to is Walt Whitman. Whitman’s Leaves of Grass is monumental in American literature. Carl Sandburg had even made a journey in 1904 to Walt Whitman’s last residence in Camden, New Jersey. The book goes on to say that, like Whitman, Sandburg believed that Abraham Lincoln viewed the United States:

“Like a great poem. Lincoln’s America was the physical expression of an idea, mystical, spiritual, but very real-call it, as Whitman did, democracy, or as Lincoln called it in his Second Annual Message to Congress, “the last, best hope of earth.”

So Carl Sandburg had a poet’s eye to see that Abraham Lincoln was also a poet. Prior to beginning his magnificent work on Lincoln that would eventually be known as The Prairie Years, Sandburg created a poem that was never published. It expresses my view perfectly. Here it is:

“I make my acknowledgements to you,

Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln.

I say you dead are more real than people I

see on streetcars, in offices and restaurants,

in parks and cigar store hangouts.”


I recently read again Sandburg’s one volume edition of Abraham Lincoln The Prairie Years and The War Years. How beautifully poetic in nature was it written. What a labor of love it must have been. The writer makes this comment about Sandburg’s effort:

“Through the four years consumed in writing The Prairie Years and the eleven in writing The War Years, Lincoln’s life merged wholly with Sandburg’s.


If you’ve never read Sandburg’s Lincoln work, I urge you do so-you’ll never read anything else on Lincoln like it.

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