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Crown His Blood-Stained Pillow

By Julia Ward Howe



Noted abolitionist and social activist Julia Ward Howe (1819–1910) met Abraham Lincoln in Washington, DC in November 1861. The meeting inspired her to write one of the most popular Union songs of the Civil War, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” After Lincoln’s assassination, Howe turned to the sorrowful task of mourning the dead president with this somber poem, first published in 1865.

Looking at the first three stanzas, what was Lincoln’s legacy, and what is his reward? Moving to stanzas 4 through 6, how does the poet instruct us to honor him? Who is the “First Hero” of the final verse, and how does his heroic action compare to that of Lincoln?

Crown his blood-stained pillow
With a victor’s palm;
Life’s receding billow
Leaves eternal calm.

At the feet Almighty
Lay this gift sincere;
Of a purpose weighty,
And a record clear.

With deliverance freighted
Was this passive hand,
And this heart, high-fated,
Would with love command.

Let him rest serenely
In a Nation’s care,
Where her waters queenly
Make the West most fair.

In the greenest meadow
That the prairies show,
Let his marble’s shadow
Give all men to know:

“Our First Hero, living,
Made his country free;
Heed the Second’s giving,
Death for Liberty.”

Return to The Meaning of Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday.

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