Sunday, October 9, 2011
Abraham Lincoln's Suicide Soliloquy?
That our 16th president suffered constantly from depression is not news to anyone who has studied his life. Had he not been a man inclined to melancholy, certainly the events that enveloped him upon taking the reigns of the United States as its long, festering division over slavery came to a head would have been enough to bring him or anyone, for that matter, to the brink of despair.
Long before Abraham Lincoln was elected president, when he was the ripe young age of 29, an anonymous poem appeared in a local Whig newspaper, a dark, brooding poem that has been attributed to the prairie politician by some historians.
Lincoln had spoken of death often in his life, and many times of death by suicide. Being deeply moved by the mood and tone of this "soliloquy," I feel it seems more like Poe than Lincoln, but I just don't know if this really was the work of the future president. No one can deny, however, that Lincoln had a way with words, a knack for expressing his thoughts and emotions in stirring prose.
Here, dear readers, is perhaps Lincoln's but certainly somebody's brooding death poem. Read it and weep.
The Suicide's Soliloquy
Here, where the lonely hooting owl
Sends forth his midnight moans,
Fierce wolves shall o’er my carcase growl,
Or buzzards pick my bones.
No fellow-man shall learn my fate,
Or where my ashes lie;
Unless by beasts drawn round their bait,
Or by the ravens’ cry.
Yes! I’ve resolved the deed to do,
And this the place to do it:
This heart I’ll rush a dagger through,
Though I in hell should rue it!
Hell! What is hell to one like me
Who pleasures never knew;
By friends consigned to misery,
By hope deserted too?
To ease me of this power to think,
That through my bosom raves,
I’ll headlong leap from hell’s high brink,
And wallow in its waves.
Though devils yell, and burning chains
May waken long regret;
Their frightful screams, and piercing pains,
Will help me to forget.
Yes! I’m prepared, through endless night,
To take that fiery berth!
Think not with tales of hell to fright
Me, who am damn’d on earth!
Sweet steel! come forth from your sheath,
And glist’ning, speak your powers;
Rip up the organs of my breath,
And draw my blood in showers!
I strike! It quivers in that heart
Which drives me to this end;
I draw and kiss the bloody dart,
My last—my only friend!