Irredeemable Loss & Grief…Assassination of President Lincoln

Today in History, April 14, 1865:

Within a week of the surrender at Appomattox, a coward assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.

If you were old enough on 9/11, you experienced the indescribable loss, grief, and helplessness we all experienced.

I use this in an attempt to fathom the emotions Americans must have felt at the loss of Lincoln. He had led them through the most traumatic time in our nation’s history…the times ahead were still uncertain. How would the North and South reunite? Was the war really over? They needed his steady hand on the rudder stearing the ship of state more than ever.

And suddenly Abraham was gone.

I post “O Captain! My Captain!” By Walt Whitman almost every year on this date, because I believe he came closest to capturing the grief the nation must have felt.

O Captain! My Captain!

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
                         Here Captain! dear father!
                            This arm beneath your head!
                               It is some dream that on the deck,
                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                            But I with mournful tread,
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

The Grapes of Wrath

Today in History, April 14, 1939:

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is first published and would become iconic, capturing the hearts of those that had lived through the Great Depression in the preceding years.

The novel told the story of the Joads, one of many Oklahoma families driven off of their farms by the Dust Bowl and bankers who evicted them when they couldn’t raise crops to pay mortgages. Like so many others, the family was forced to leave Oklahoma for California, where they were derisively called “Okies”, to seek work as laborers in order to survive.

My father (who lived through it) used to counter that the migration of the “Okies” from Oklahoma to California had greatly increased the intelligence level of both states.

O Captain, My Captain!

Today in History, April 14: 1865 – President Lincoln is assassinated at Ford’s Theater in DC.  He would die the next morning in a home accross the street. A few months later poet Walt Whitman would publish a poem which would voice the mood of the nation. 
    O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;

    The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;

    The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

    While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
        But O heart! heart! heart!

        O the bleeding drops of red,

        Where on the deck my Captain lies,

        Fallen cold and dead.
    O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

    Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;

    For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;

    For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
        O captain! dear father!

        This arm beneath your head;

        It is some dream that on the deck,

        You’ve fallen cold and dead.
    My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;

    My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;

    The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;

    From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
        Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!

        But I, with mournful tread,

        Walk the deck my captain lies,
            Fallen cold and dead.