Abraham Lincoln, Assassinated April 14th, 1865.

O jubilant bells! O glorious bells!
That rung in the land of the free,
When the galling bands on a brother’s hands
Were broken in ’63,
Where is your once glad tone?
O jubilant bells! O glorious bells!
That rung in the land of the brave;
In the gladsome hour when the tyrant’s power,
In Richmond had found a grave,
Where is your music gone?
Ye are muffled now! Toll a sorrowful peal,
While the nation bows its head;
Let it sound on the air, like a groan of despair,
Wailing a Father dead.
O people that live in the land of the West,
Ye have done a fearful crime;
And the price ye pay in his death to-day
Shall meet you throughout all time.
Ye have gazed on a brother when bound in chains,
But a reckoning hour has come;
And the dreadful price of the sacrifice,
Is the life-blood of every home.
Your greatest is gone: an assassin’s deed!
O God! why was it so?
Will a curse not cling, like a baleful thing,
To the hand that laid him low?
Could he not be spared who had striven so long,
‘Mid scoffing, affliction, and tears,
To enjoy the calm, and the healing balm
Of peaceful, declining years!
How nobly he stood! How defiant and brave!
A bulwark of honest might,
When the storm of thunder, which rent asunder
Equality, truth, and right, -
Came sweeping along with a crushing force,
With its fierce and deadly yell,
Wasting the land with a fiery hand,
Making a heaven a hell.
And is it not hard that this valiant man,
With soul so noble and free, -
Who struggled so long, with a purpose strong,
Striving for liberty, -
Should fall by a miscreant’s murderous blow,
Just when the fair olive wand
Of peace gleamed afar, while the banners of war
Were ceasing to wave in the land!
What a fearful reward for years of toil!
For toil in the cause of the slave;
Instead of a wreath, ‘tis a horrid death,
And a home in the noisome grave.
A horrid death! No! ‘Tis a noble one,
For he met a martyr’s doom;
And the flowery fame of his deathless name
Shall glow with celestial bloom.
O people that grieve for the loss of your chief,
Let your hearts be his sacred shrine;
Like the heroes of old, let his deeds be told
Till he seem to you half divine,
Add his name to the roll of the world’s true braves,
They who died with harness on;
Let the toll of his bell sound slavery’s knell,
Proclaiming his task is done.
Ring a sorrowful peal ye muffled bells!
While the nation bows its head;
Let it sound on the air, like a groan of despaiir,
Wailing a Father dead!

Title:Abraham Lincoln, Assassinated April 14th, 1865


Publication:The Blackburn Times

Published in:Blackburn

Date:May 6th 1865

Keywords:america, elegy, slavery, war


This quite substantial sixty-six line poem is presented as a single stanza and relies on internal rhymes in some of the longer lines and occasional end rhymes separated by unrhymed lines. The long lines use the anapaest as the dominant metric foot whilst the short lines are mostly emphatic trochees. The language is largely classical/archaic (‘ye’, ‘’tis’) and is suitably hyperbolic in reaction to the shocking news of Lincoln’s assassination. The imagery is florid and intense.

Although this is an elegy technically, it also has an underlying tone of celebration, with the American Civil War finished, and slavery about to be abolished across all the states. As befitting a poet who takes their pen-name from one of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poems (‘Laon and Cythna’), this work echoes the earlier writer’s work heavily, especially Shelley’s elegy to John Keats, ‘Adonais’.

- SR.