Vachel Lindsay

Start Your Free Trial

What is the theme for Vachel Lindsay's poem "Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight"?

Expert Answers info

Walter Fischer eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2013

write4,012 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Business

Any analysis of Vachel Lindsay's poem "Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight" should occur within the context of the poet's life. Lindsay was a native of the same region in Illinois that produced President Lincoln, and the poet actually resided in the same house as Lincoln's sister-in-law, further cementing Lindsay's interest in the president. Lindsay's respect for this tragic but heroic figure from American history is obvious. "Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight" is a homage to Lincoln and to the extraordinary burden of leadership Lincoln's term in office entailed. William Shakespeare's King Henry IV famously observed that "uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." Shakespeare's observation regarding the weight of responsibility involved in governing, especially during turbulent times, can easily and logically be applied to Abraham Lincoln.
 
Lindsay's poem essentially depicts the martyred president haunting the landscape, unable to "rest in peace" because of the terrible burdens that survived him. The poem's opening stanza suggests the admiration of the poet for the president:
 
A bronzed, lank man! His suit of ancient black, 
A famous high top-hat and plain worn shawl 
Make him the quaint great figure that men love, 
The prairie-lawyer, master of us all. 
 
The stanzas that follow emphasize the turbulence that continues to plague humanity long after Lincoln's assassination. The dead president cannot rest peacefully because the world remains torn apart. Lindsay wrote his poem at the outset of World War I, which would involve unimaginable levels of brutality and inhumanity. Such lines as "He thinks on men and kings. Yea, when the sick world cries, how...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 546 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

eir eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write48 answers

starTop subjects are Literature and Law and Politics

check Approved by eNotes Editorial