When Lincoln Died by Katherine Lee Bates

Excerpt from ‘When Lincoln Died’

By Katherine Lee Bates

“…Back into the Kitchen my mother staggered, her face all strange and blanched.

Her deep eyes filling, filling and brimming

With tears that the tablecloth kept so sacred from childish weeping stanched.


‘I will not believe it. I’ll not believe it,’ she sobbed till with drooping head

An old sea captain

Off the stage-coach swung with a Boston paper that from house to house he read.


I heard it and hid me under the lilacs this mystery to prod.

Lincoln! Lincoln! Abraham Lincoln!

And not one angel to catch the bullet! What had become of God?


A robin beyond me hopped and chirruped where the April grasses blew,

As if Lincoln, Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln!

Were no more than the worm he tugged at and swallowed. I lamemted that long worm, too.


Then our lonely village among the sand dunes with only it’s one scant store.

Yet part of a nation, a stricken nation,

Took thought how to honor our saint, our martyr, our hero forevermore.


Wonted to grief, the women of Falmouth hung the old church, pulpit and walls,

With a simple mourning, a sacred mourning,

Already steeped in uttermost anguish, hung it with widow’s shawls.


The flag on the village green half-masted, bell tolling upon the air,

Lincoln, Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln,

The nation’s sorrow I felt my sorrow, for my mother’s shawl was there…”

Note: Katherine Lee Bates wrote this poem about hearing the news of Lincoln’s death when she was five years old.

Lincoln in his coffin Lincoln in his coffin
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One Response to “When Lincoln Died by Katherine Lee Bates”

  1. Jim says:

    Good stuff. Great site.

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