Just finished my monthly neighborhood book club. My turn to host. My turn to facilitate. My idea what to read – 101 Great American Poems. The La Floresta book club had never traveled down this road before, poetry that is. I took a chance. I made the suggestion as much for my sake as anyone else’s. I have little patience for poetry. I have enough trouble taking time out of my busyness to ponder Scripture let alone pause over verse that makes me scratch my head.
The night went better than I thought it would. Among other things each of us shared a poem with which we connected. I learned a l0t about my neighbors. We laughed. We paused. We felt. We reflected. I think I will try to venture into this genre more often in the future for its various benefits. My choice to read? I learned, by the way, poetry is meant to be read aloud for a proper appreciation. I could have turned in numerous directions. It struck me how many poets, at least in this connection, wrote about death. I connected for obvious reasons.But this work by Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931) won the prize. Perhaps it was because I couldn’t sleep on Saturday night before a busy Sunday of ministry. I just identified. Occupational hazard.
Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight(In Springfield, Illinois)It is portentous, and a thing of stateThat here at midnight, in our little townA mourning figure walks, and will not rest,Near the old court-house pacing up and down.Or by his homestead, or in shadowed yardsHe lingers where his children used to play,Or through the market, on the well-worn stonesHe stalks until the dawn-stars burn away.A bronzed, lank man! His suit of ancient black,A famous high top-hat and plain worn shawlMake him the quaint great figure that men love,The prairie-lawyer, master of us all.He cannot sleep upon his hillside now.He is among us:—as in times before!And we who toss and lie awake for longBreathe deep, and start, to see him pass the door.His head is bowed. He thinks on men and kings.Yea, when the sick world cries, how can he sleep?Too many peasants fight, they know not why,Too many homesteads in black terror weep.
The sins of all the war-lords burn his heart.
He sees the dreadnaughts scouring every main.
He carries on his shawl-wrapped shoulders now
The bitterness, the folly and the pain.
He cannot rest until a spirit-dawn
Shall come;—the shining hope of Europe free;
The league of sober folk, the Workers’ Earth,
Bringing long peace to Cornland, Alp and Sea.
It breaks his heart that kings must murder still,
That all his hours of travail here for men
Seem yet in vain. And who will bring white peace
That he may sleep upon his hill again?
Some days I hardly want even to be a pastor. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a president. Lord, have mercy on the Commander-in-Chief as well as the preacher.