April 14, 1865, From Lincoln’s Box

Though comedy plays out below,
Unheeding, vexed I recollect
a fortnight past –so long ago—
When on the front, I, sleeping dreamt:
A death-like still was broke by sobs
I wandered through the grieving rooms
Until I found the mourning throngs
Around a coffin, —seized with doom
I asked, “Who died?” Was answered thus,
“The president.” Then I awoke.
And on my mind there flashed a scene:
“To sleep—perchance to dream.”*

But no! My mind, my will rebels.
I have so great a work ahead
To right the wrongs and peace propel,
And yet somehow I know that death
Cannot be far—I shudder—
squeeze my dear wife’s hand
Diverted, turn to stage again
To smile at the comic scene
I laugh—a shot—a scream—

*The line “to sleep, perchance to dream” comes from Hamlet’s famous “to be or not to be speech,” and Lincoln actually did use the phrase in a conversation after describing his dream.

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