“He Read Aloud the Well-remembered Words”

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He is gone, and he has been mourned sincerely. Only private sorrow would recall the dead. He is now removed beyond earthly vicissitudes. Life and death are both past. He had been happy in life: he was not less happy in death. In death, as in life, he was still under the guardianship of that Divine Providence, which, taking him early by the hand, led him from obscurity to power and fame. The blow was sudden, but not unprepared for. Only on the Sunday preceding, as he was coming from the front on board the steamer, with a beautiful quarto Shakespeare in his hands, he read aloud the well-remembered words of his favorite “Macbeth”: —

“Duncan is in his grave;
After life’s fitful fever, he sleeps well.
Treason has done his worst; nor steel, nor poison,
Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing.
Can touch him further.” 

Impressed by their beauty, or by some presentiment unuttered, he read them aloud a second time. As the friends about listened to his reading, they little thought how in a few days what was said of the murdered Duncan would be said of him. ” Nothing can touch him further.” He is saved from the trials that were gathering. He had fought the good fight of Emancipation. He had borne the brunt of war with embattled hosts, and conquered. He had made the name of Eepublic a triumph and a joy in foreign lands.

Quoted in “The works of Charles Sumner”Volume 9, by Charles Sumner,P407   

On Sunday, April 9th, we were steaming up the Potomac. That whole day the conversation dwelt upon literary subjects. Mr. Lincoln read to us for several hours passages taken from Shakespeare. Most of these were from “ Macbeth’ and, in particular, the verses which follow Duncan’s assassination. I cannot recall this reading without being awed at the remembrance, when Macbeth becomes king after the murder of Duncan , he falls a prey to the most horrible torments of mind.

Either because he was struck by the weird beauty of these verses, or from a vague presentiment coming over him, Mr. Lincoln paused here while reading, and began to explain to us how true a description of the murderer that one was; when, the dark deed achieved, its tortured perpetrator came to envy the sleep of his victim; and he read over again the same scene.

Quoted in Marquis de Chambrun, “Personal Recollections of Mr. Lincoln,” Scribner’s (1893), p. 35

The President’s mind was upon the subject of reconstruction; but he made no confidential communication to Sumner upon it, as each had fixed ideas not accepted by the other. In the course of the day the President read to the few friends about him, with a beautiful quarto copy of Shakspeare in his hands, the tribute to the murdered Duncan — ‘Macbeth’ being his favorite play, and ‘impressed by the beauty of the words, or by some presentiment unuttered,’ he read the passage aloud a second time.4 He repeated also from memory some lines from Longfellow’s ‘Resignation.’5

4 Works, vol. IX. pp. 407, 408.    5 Mrs. Lincoln’s letter to Sumner, July 5, 1865 (manuscript).

Quoted in Memoir and letters of Charles Sumner: volume 4,by Edward L. Pierce     Edward Pierce-Memoir-235

  As the River Queen steamed toward Washington on Sunday, “the conversation,” Chambrun recalled, “dwelt upon literary subjects.” Holding “a beautiful quarto copy of Shakespeare in his hands,” Lincoln read several passages from Macbeth, including the king’s pained tribute to the murdered Duncan:Duncan is in his grave;After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well.Treason has done his worst; nor steel, nor poison, Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing,Can touch him further.

Lincoln read the lines slowly, marveling “how true a description of the murderer that one was; when, the dark deed achieved, its tortured perpetrator came to envy the sleep of his victim,” and when he finished, “he read over again the same scene.” Lincoln’s ominous selection prompted James Speed to deliver Seward’s warning about the increased threat upon his life. “He stopped me at once,” Speed recalled, “saying, he had rather be dead than to live in continual dread.” Moreover, he considered it essential “that the people know I come among them without fear.”

Quoted in “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln”,By Doris Kearns Goodwin  Goodwin-717-489-27 ,28

One thought on ““He Read Aloud the Well-remembered Words”

    Words : Poet « Abraham Lincoln said:
    June 1, 2016 at 13:46

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