Lincoln's Personal Life HTML version
There was an early spring on the Potomac in 1865. While April was still young, the Judas
trees became spheres of purply, pinkish bloom. The Washington parks grew softly bright
as the lilacs opened. Pendulous willows veiled with green laces afloat in air the changing
brown that was winter's final shadow; in the Virginia woods the white blossoms of the
dogwood seemed to float and flicker among the windy trees like enormous flocks of
alighting butterflies. And over head such a glitter of turquoise blue! As lovely in a
different way as on that fateful Sun-day morning when Russell drove through the same
woods toward Bull Run so long, long ago. Such was the background of the last few days
of Lincoln's life.
Though tranquil, his thoughts dwelt much on death. While at City Point, he drove one
day with Mrs. Lincoln along the banks of the James. They passed a country graveyard. "It
was a retired place," said Mrs. Lincoln long afterward, "shaded by trees, and early spring
flowers were opening on nearly every grave. It was so quiet and attractive that we
stopped the carriage and walked through it. Mr. Lincoln seemed thoughtful and
impressed. He said: 'Mary, you are younger than I; you will survive me. When I am gone,
lay my remains in some quiet place like this.'"
His mood underwent a mysterious change. It was serene and yet charged with a peculiar
grave loftiness not quite like any phase of him his friends had known hitherto. As always,
his thoughts turned for their reflection to Shakespeare. Sumner who was one of the party
at City Point, was deeply impressed by his reading aloud, a few days before his death,
that passage in Macbeth which describes the ultimate security of Duncan where nothing
evil "can touch him farther."
There was something a little startling, as if it were not quite of this world, in the tender
lightness that seemed to come into his heart. "His whole appearance, poise and bearing,"
says one of his observers, "had marvelously changed. He was, in fact, transfigured. That
indescribable sadness which had previously seemed to be an adamantine element of his
very being, had been suddenly changed for an equally indescribable expression of serene
joy, as if conscious that the great purpose of his life had been achieved."
It was as if the seer in the trance had finally passed beyond his trance; and had faced
smiling toward his earthly comrades, imagining he was to return to them; unaware that
somehow his emergence was not in the ordinary course of nature; that in it was an accent
of the inexplicable, something which the others caught and at which they trembled;
though they knew not why. And he, so beautifully at peace, and yet thrilled as never
before by the vision of the murdered Duncan at the end of life's fitful fever--what was his
real feeling, his real vision of himself? Was it something of what the great modern poet
strove so bravely to express--
And yet Dauntless the slughorn to my lips I set,
And blew: Childe Roland to the dark tower came."
Shortly before the end, he had a strange dream. Though he spoke of it almost with levity,
it would not leave his thoughts. He dreamed he was wandering through the White House