On this day in 1809 the future US President Abraham Lincoln was born. From truly humble beginnings (born in a log cabin) Lincoln rose to become one of the world’s most famous men. He presided through the civil war, arguably the most difficult period in the history of the United States and brought his country to peace and, to a great extent, forgiveness. He was also a charismatic leader and a gifted orator.
John Kennedy famously said of Churchill “he mobilised the English language and sent it into battle”. He could have said the same of Lincoln. John Wilkes Booth, a disgruntled Confederate and actor who longed for immortality, is said to have killed Lincoln.
This poem, The Glories of Our Blood and State, by James Shirley says that only the actions of the just live on:
The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against Fate;
Death lays his icy hand on kings:
Sceptre and Crown
Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crooked scythe and spade.
The garlands wither on your brow;
Then boast no more your mighty deeds!
Upon Death’s purple altar now
See where the victor-victim bleeds.
Your heads must come
To the cold tomb:
Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in their dust.
Today I ask that the world be free of those prepared to use violence for their own ends.