When lincoln died

Katharine Lee Bates

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A five-year old in a Cape Cod village, twenty miles from the rail,
Falmouth, Falmouth, loveliest Falmouth,
Wearing her silvery, pearl-embroidered ocean mist for a veil;
Her sweet God's Acre a windsome garden whither often would weepers bear
Their gifts of flowers, dear dooryard flowers,
To pale stones carved with a ship or anchor, though no mound was molded there;

For many a Falmouth man lay dreaming under seas of dazzling blue
Mid the rosewhite coral, the rosepink coral,
And some in the Arctice ice were shrouded, and the tomb of some known knew.

A five-year old on the side porch holding a fold of her mother's dress,
Mother, Mother, our fair young Mother,
Shaking the breakfast cloth with a flourish of her own gay gallantness.

And across the yard, in her narrow doorway, the neighbor I held in dread,
Venomous neighbor, witch of a neighbor,
Lean and gray, with a furtive pussy that the boys called Copperhead.

Yet I loved her grandson, a pygmy urchin with black eyes glittering sly,
Impish playmate, my earliest playmate,
Whose quick red mouth would snap at and swallow the bewildered buzz of a fly.

She shrilled across: "They've shot Abe Lincoln, He's dead and I'm glad he's dead."
Lincoln! Lincoln! Abraham Lincoln!
She stood and laughted, that terrible woman, and never a word God said.

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, a whaler 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 byond 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 lamented that long worm, too.

Then our lonely village among the sand dunes with only its 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.

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