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"Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
"The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
And the young and the old, and the low and the high,
"The infant a mother attended and loved;
The mother that infant's affection who proved;
"So the multitude goes, like the flower or the weed,
"For we are the same our fathers have been ;
"The thoughts we are thinking our fathers would think;
"They loved, but the story we cannot unfold;
They scorned, but the heart of the haughty is cold;
"They died, ay, they died; we things that are now,
"Yea, hope and despondency, and pleasure and pain,
"'Tis the wink of an eye, 'tis the draught of a breath,
This brand of melancholy poetic reflection became such a large and settled part of Lincoln's life that it is, next to his wit, perhaps his most famous personal trait. Had he possessed the poetic faculty, it is easy to see what kind of a poet he would have been. Byron's "dream was one of the things he liked, and one of his prime favorites contained these thoughts :
"Tell me, ye winged winds
That round my pathway roar,
Some valley in the west,
Where, free from toil and pain,
The weary soul may rest?
The loud wind dwindled to a whisper low,
And sighed for pity as it answered, No.
"Tell me, thou mighty deep,
Where weary man may find
Where sorrow never lives
And friendship never dies?
The loud waves rolling in perpetual flow
"And thou, serenest moon,
That with such holy face
Dost look upon the Earth
Hast thou not seen some spot
Where miserable man
Might find a happier lot?
Behind a cloud the moon withdrew in woe,
"Tell me, my secret soul,
Oh, tell me, Hope and Faith,
Is there no resting-place
From sorrow, sin, and death?
Where grief may find a balm
And weariness a rest?
Faith, Hope, and Love, best boon to mortals given,
The melancholy which increased after Ann Rutledge's death, however, is but one side of as enigmatical a character as is known to history. If the great President is ever to be understood as a man, it must be by reconciling wonderful sanity with vagaries almost insane, and it is the wilder and queerer side of his nature that comes to the front for several years after Ann's death. A woman named Mary S. Owens, who had visited New Salem in 1833, returned in 1836. The story of her relation to Lincoln rests mostly on her own evidence, but letters from him are sufficient to give it a singular importance in any attempt to see him intimately. This lady was the object of Lincoln's interest, but she thought him "deficient in those little links which make up the chain, of a woman's happiness." She also says, "I thought him lacking in smaller attentions." As a party of friends were riding on horseback one day he failed to draw aside the branch of a tree which the other men had removed for their women companions. Mary remonstrated, and her cavalier replied that he knew she was plenty smart to take care of herself. The rest of the story belongs to a slightly later period.
During this year Lincoln was again a candidate for the legislature. His first important step was the following:
"NEW SALEM, June 13, 1863.
"TO THE EDITOR OF THE JOURNAL: In your paper of last Saturday I see a communication over the signature of Many voters' in which the candidates who are announced in the Journal are called upon to 'show their hands.' Agreed. Here's mine:--
"I go for all sharing the privileges of the government who assist in bearing its burdens. Consequently, I go for admitting all whites to the right of suffrage who pay taxes or bear arms (by no means excluding females).
"If elected, I shall consider the whole people of Sangamon my constituents, as well those that oppose as those that support me.
“While acting as their representative, I shall be governed by their will on all subjects upon which I have the means of knowing what their will is; and upon all others I shall do what my own judgment teaches me will best advance their interests. Whether elected or not, I go for distributing the proceeds of the sales of public lands to the several states to enable our state, in common with others, to dig canals and construct railroads without borrowing money and paying the interest on it.
"If alive on the first Monday in November, I shall vote for Hugh L. White, for President.
One story of this campaign shows Lincoln's already noticeable political adroitness. One Forquer, who had put on his house the only lightning-rod in Springfield, and the first Lin