The evening of March 25th was an intensely interesting one to me. It was passed with the President
alone in his study, marked by no interruptions.
Busy with pen and papers when I entered, he presently threw them aside, and commenced talking again about Shakspeare
Little Tad coming in, he sent him to the library for a copy of the plays, from which he read aloud several of his favorite passages.
Relapsing into a sadder strain, he laid the book aside, and leaning back in his chair, said, “There is a poem that has been a great favorite with me for years, to which my attention was first called when a young man, by a friend, and which I afterward saw and cut from a newspaper, and carried in my pocket, till by frequent reading I had it by heart.
I would give a great deal,” he added, “to know who wrote it, but I never could ascertain.”
Then, half closing his eyes, he repeated the poem, “Oh!
Why should the spirit of mortal be proud?”
Surprised and delighted, I told him that I should greatly prize a copy of the lines.
He replied that he had recently written them out for Mrs. Stanton
, but promised that when a favorable opportunity occurred he would give them to me.
Varying the subject, he continued: “There are some quaint, queer verses, written, I think, by Oliver Wendell Holmes
, entitled, ‘The Last Leaf,’
one of which is to me inexpressibly touching.
He then repeated these also from memory.
The verse he referred to occurs in about the middle of the poem, and is this:--
The mossy marbles rest
On the lips that he has pressed
In their bloom;
And the names he loved to hear
Have been carved for many a year
On the tomb.
” As he finished this verse, he said, in his emphatic way, “For pure pathos, in my judgment, there is nothing finer than those six lines in the English
A day or two afterward, he asked me to accompany him to the temporary studio, at the Treasury Department, of Mr. Swayne
, the sculptor, who was making a bust of him. While he was sitting, it occurred to me to improve the opportunity to secure the promised poem.
Upon mentioning the subject, the sculptor surprised me by saying that he had at his home, in Philadelphia
, a printed copy of the verses, taken from a newspaper some years previous.
The President inquired if they were published in any connection with his name.
said that they purported to have been written
“by Abraham Lincoln
“I have heard of that before, and that is why I asked,” returned the President
“But there is no truth in it. The poem was first shown to me by a young man named ‘Jason Duncan
,’ many years ago.”
The sculptor was using for a studio the office of the Solicitor of the Treasury Department, an irregular room, packed nearly full of law books.
Seating myself, I believe, upon a pile of these at Mr. Lincoln
's feet, he kindly repeated the lines, which I wrote down, one by one, as they fell from his lips:--