Saturday, February 16, 2013

Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Found Haiku’

by Bill Doughty

Haiku: Insights distilled to three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables only.

Originally from Japan and traditionally nature based, haiku are poems that can bring out subtle but deep insights in a few words.  Sometimes, haiku can be found in other people’s words.  The ‘found haiku’ on this page come from the published works of President Abraham Lincoln.  These are his words:

with other pillars
hewn from the solid quarry
of sober reason
(Speech before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, Jan. 27, 1837)

his ruling passion --
a love of liberty and
right, unselfishly
(Eulogy of Henry Clay, July 16, 1852)

steadily as man’s
march to the grave, we have been
giving up the old
(Speech at Peoria, Illinois on Kansas-Nebraska Act, Oct. 16, 1854)

We live in the midst
of alarms, anxiety
beclouds the future
(Speech before the first Republican State Convention of Illinois, May 29, 1856)

In my opinion...
a house divided against
itself cannot stand
(Speech before the first Republican State Convention of Illinois, June 17, 1858)

that if a man says
he knows a thing, then he must
show how he knows it
(Speech at first Lincoln-Douglas debate, Aug. 21, 1858)

Let us have faith that
right makes might; and in that faith
...dare to do our duty
(Speech at New Haven, Connecticut, March 6, 1860)

touched, as surely
they will be, by the better
angels of our nature
(First Inaugural Address, Mar. 4, 1861)

Let us proceed in
the great task which events have
devolved upon us
(First Annual Message to Congress, Dec. 3, 1861)

Slavery is the
root of the rebellion...
it’s sine qua non
(Reply to a committee from Chicago religious denominations, Sept. 13, 1862)

The subject is on
my mind, by day and night, more
than any other
(Reply to a committee from Chicago religious denominations, Sept. 13, 1862)

Sorrow comes to all
and to the young it comes with
bittered agony
(Letter to Fanny McCullough, Dec. 23, 1862)

Peace does not appear
so distant as it did. I
hope it will come soon
(Letter to James C. Conkling, Aug. 26, 1863)

with malice toward none,
with charity for all, with
firmness in the right
(Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865)

We shall sooner have
the fowl by hatching the egg
than by smashing it
(“On Reconstruction,” his last public address, April 11, 1865)

President Lincoln, 1864
Lincoln was a master of prose whose writing feels like poetry.  His Gettysburg Address and his inaugural addresses are some of the finest examples of writing in American History.  As we reflect on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, Navy Reads will continue to periodically feature works by and about our 16th President. As we end wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, deal with perils of a continuing resolution and sequestration, and even contemplate asteroids and meteors in 2013, Lincoln’s words offer inspiration, perspective and hope.

The haiku in this Navy Reads post were "found" by Bill Doughty from works published in “The Essential Abraham Lincoln,” from the Library of Freedom, published by Gramercy Books, distributed by Outlet Book Company, Inc., a Random House company. The works are from Lincoln’s original papers, collected in The Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln (twelve volumes, 1905), edited by John G. Nicolay and John Hay, and prepared with the cooperation of Robert Todd Lincoln, the president’s son.

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