This classic poem of old grey beard, Walt Whitman, mourns the death of President Abraham Lincoln. In twenty enumerations Whitman evokes imagery of nature and death with the beauty of life. He writes a song celebrating death calling it soothing and lovely. In true Whitman style, the poem celebrates every part of life even the ending of it. Whitman sings of his love and his admiration. Whitman offers a lilac sprig to the passing coffin as a symbol of brotherly love.
Whitman writes such beautiful lines about how one should choose to remember a recently departed. In enumeration eleven he begins:
O what shall I hang on the chamber walls? And what shall the pictures be that I hang on the walls, To adorn the burial-house of him I love?
All chamber walls of memory are hung with images, thoughts, memories of loved ones long ago. The choices of which to cherish most carry on the legacy of the dead.
Though Whitman’s cycle of mourning poetry does not compare to the (unnecessarily) extensive work of Tennyson’s In Memorium, the art of Whitman’s undeniable mastery of language speeks to readers almost two centuries later.