My Childhood Home I See Again

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Canto 1

My childhood’s home I see again,
  And sadden with the view;
And still, as memory crowds my brain,
  There’s pleasure in it too.

O Memory! thou midway world
  ‘Twixt earth and paradise,
Where things decayed and loved ones lost
  In dreamy shadows rise,

And, freed from all that’s earthly vile,
  Seem hallowed, pure, and bright,
Like scenes in some enchanted isle,
  All bathed in liquid light.

As dusky mountains please the eye,
  When twilight chases day;
As bugle-notes that, passing by,
  In distance die away;

As leaving some grand waterfall,
  We, lingering, list its roar—
So memory will hallow all
  We’ve known, but know no more.

Near twenty years have passed away
  Since here I bid farewell
To woods and fields, and scenes of play,
  And playmates loved so well.

Where many were, how few remain
  Of old familiar things;
But seeing them, to mind again
  The lost and absent brings.

The friends I left that parting day,
  How changed, as time has sped!
Young childhood grown, strong manhood gray,
  And half of all are dead.

I hear the loved survivors tell
  How nought from death could save,
Till every sound appears a knell,
  And every spot a grave.

I range the fields with pensive tread,
  And pace the hollow rooms;
And feel (companion of the dead)
  I’m living in the tombs.

  Canto 2

But here’s an object more of dread
  Than ought the grave contains—
A human form with reason fled,
  While wretched life remains.

Poor Matthew! Once of genius bright,
  A fortune-favored child—
Now locked for aye, in mental night,
  A haggard mad-man wild.

Poor Matthew! I have ne’er forgot
  When first, with maddened will,
Yourself you maimed, your father fought,
  And mother strove to kill;

When terror spread, and neighbours ran,
  Your dang’rous strength to bind;
And soon, a howling crazy man
  Your limbs were fast confined.

How then you strove and shrieked aloud,
  Your bones and sinnews bared;
And fiendish on the gazing crowd,
  With burning eye-balls glared—

And begged, and swore, and wept and prayed
  With maniac laughter joined—
How fearful were those signs displayed
  By pangs that killed thy mind!

And when at length, tho’ drear and long,
  Time soothed thy fiercer woes,
How plaintively thy mournful song,
  Upon the still night rose.

I’ve heard it oft, as if I dreamed,
  Far-distant, sweet, and lone—
The funeral dirge, it ever seemed
  Of reason dead and gone.

To drink its strains, I’ve stole away,
  All stealthily and still,
Ere yet the rising God of day
  Had streaked the Eastern hill.

Air held his breath; trees, with the spell,
  Seemed sorrowing angels round,
Whose swelling tears in dew-drops fell
  Upon the listening ground.

But this is past; and nought remains,
  That raised thee o’er the brute.
Thy piercing shrieks, and soothing strains,
  Are like, forever mute.

Now fare thee well—more thou the cause,
  Than subject now of woe.
All mental pangs, by time’s kind laws,
  Hast lost the power to know.

O death! Thou awe-inspiring prince,
  That keepst the world in fear;
Why dost thou tear more blest ones hence,
  And leave him ling’ring here?

© Abraham Lincoln