When Lilacs Last in the Door-Yard Bloom'd
When Lilacs Last in the Door-Yard Bloom’d. Methodist DeBakey Cardiovascular Journal: January 2013, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 56.
When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d—and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.
powerful western fallen star!
shades of night! O moody, tearful night!
great star disappear’d! O the black murk that hides the star!
ruel hands that hold me powerless! O helpless soul of me!
harsh surrounding cloud that will not free my soul!
In the door-yard fronting an old farm-house, near the white-wash’d palings,
Stands the lilac bush, tall-growing, with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom, rising, delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle…and from this bush in the door-yard,
With delicate-color’d blossoms, and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig, with its flower, I break.
In the swamp in secluded recesses,
A shy and hidden bird is warbling a song.
Solitary, the thrush,
The hermit, withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settlements,
Sings by himself a song.
Song of the bleeding throat!
Death’s outlet song of life—(for well, dear brother, I know
If thou wast not gifted to sing, thou would’st surely die.)
Over the breast of the spring, the land, amid cities,
Amid lanes, and through old woods, (where lately the violets peep’d from the
ground, spotting the gray debris;)
Amid the grass in the fields each side of the lanes—passing the endless grass;
Passing the yellow-spear’d wheat, every grain from its shroud in the darkbrown
Passing the apple-tree blows of white and pink in the orchards;
Carrying a corpse to where it shall rest in the grave,
Night and day journeys a coffin.
— Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman (1819?1892) was one of the great poets of the nineteenth century and authentically American as well. He was a fervent admirer of Lincoln and worked as a nurse in Washington, D.C. during the Civil War. April 14, 2013 is the 148th anniversary of Lincoln’s death. “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” is Whitman’s tribute to the fallen president, a eulogy that follows the funeral cortege west to Illinois for his burial. The first five stanzas of the poem are reprinted here.