Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Hand of Lincoln
By Edmund Clarence Stedman (1833–1908)
LOOK on this cast, and know the hand
  That bore a nation in its hold;
From this mute witness understand
  What Lincoln was,—how large of mold;
The man who sped the woodman’s team,        5
  And deepest sunk the plowman’s share,
And pushed the laden raft astream,
  Of fate before him unaware.
This was the hand that knew to swing
  The axe,—since thus would Freedom train        10
Her son,—and made the forest ring,
  And drove the wedge, and toiled amain.
Firm hand, that loftier office took,
  A conscious leader’s will obeyed,
And when men sought his word and look,        15
  With steadfast might the gathering swayed.
No courtier’s, toying with a sword,
  Nor minstrel’s, laid across a lute;
A chief’s, uplifted to the Lord
  When all the kings of earth were mute!        20
The hand of Anak, sinewed strong,
  The fingers that on greatness clutch;
Yet, lo! the marks their lines along
  Of one who strove and suffered much.
For here in knotted cord and vein        25
  I trace the varying chart of years;
I know the troubled heart, the strain,
  The weight of Atlas—and the tears.
Again I see the patient brow
  That palm erewhile was wont to press;        30
And now ’tis furrowed deep, and now
  Made smooth with hope and tenderness.
For something of a formless grace
  This molded outline plays about;
A pitying flame, beyond our trace,        35
  Breathes like a spirit, in and out,—
The love that cast an aureole
  Round one who, longer to endure,
Called mirth to ease his ceaseless dole,
  Yet kept his nobler purpose sure.        40
Lo, as I gaze, the statured man,
  Built up from yon large hand, appears;
A type that Nature wills to plan
  But once in all a people’s years.
What better than this voiceless cast        45
  To tell of such a one as he,
Since through its living semblance passed
  The thought that bade a race be free!

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