Year: 
2022

These are poems about Ann Rutledge and her romantic relationship with Abraham Lincoln. 

Winter Thoughts of Ann Rutledge
by Michael R. Burch

Winter was not easy,
nor would the spring return.
I knew you by your absence,
as men are wont to burn
with strange indwelling fire —
such longings you inspire!

But winter was not easy,
nor would the sun relent
from sculpting virgin images
and how could I repent?
I left quaint offerings in the snow,
more maiden than I care to know.

***

Ann Rutledge’s Irregular Quilt
by Michael R. Burch

based on “Lincoln the Unknown” by Dale Carnegie

I.
Her fingers “plied the needle” with “unusual swiftness and art”
till Abe knelt down beside her: then her demoralized heart
set Eros’s dart a-quiver; thus a crazy quilt emerged:
strange stitches all a-kilter, all patterns lost. (Her host
kept her vicarious laughter barely submerged.)

II.
Years later she’d show off the quilt with its uncertain stitches
as evidence love undermines men’s plans and women’s strictures
(and a plethora of scriptures.)

III.
But O the sacred tenderness Ann’s reckless stitch contains
and all the world’s felicities: rich cloth, for love’s fine gains,
for sweethearts’ tremulous fingers and their bright, uncertain vows
and all love’s blithe, erratic hopes (like now’s).

IV.
Years later on a pilgrimage, by tenderness obsessed,
Dale Carnegie, drawn to her grave, found weeds in her place of rest
and mowed them back, revealing the spot of the Railsplitter’s joy and grief
(and his hope and his disbelief).

V.
For such is the tenderness of love, and such are its disappointments.
Love is a book of rhapsodic poems. Love is an grab bag of ointments.
Love is the finger poised, the smile, the Question — perhaps the Answer?
Love is the pain of betrayal, the two left feet of the dancer.

VI.
There were ladies of ill repute in his past. Or so he thought. Was it true?
And yet he loved them, Ann (sweet Ann!), as tenderly as he loved you.

Ann Rutledge was Abraham Lincoln’s first love interest. Unfortunately, she was engaged to another man when they met, then died with typhoid fever at age 22. According to a friend, Isaac Cogdal, when asked if he had loved her, Lincoln replied: “It is true—true indeed I did. I loved the woman dearly and soundly: She was a handsome girl—would have made a good, loving wife… I did honestly and truly love the girl and think often, often of her now.”

Ann Rutledge’s grave marker in Petersburg, Illinois, contains a poem written by Edgar Lee Masters in which she is “Beloved of Abraham Lincoln, / Wedded to him, not through union, / But through separation.”

Ann Rutledge’s original grave at Old Concord, once neglected, has a fairly new marker provided by her family. One side of the maker, along with her name and dates, reads: “Where Lincoln Wept.” An account popularized by William Herndon in his biography is that Lincoln was so distraught by Ann’s death that he knelt and wept at her grave. On the reverse side of the marker is carved “I cannot bear to think of her out there alone in the storm. A. Lincoln.”

Herndon was Lincoln’s law partner and a friend. He also attended poetry readings with Lincoln, who wrote poems himself. Lincoln called Herndon "my man always above all other men on the globe."

Following Lincoln's assassination, Herndon began collecting accounts of Lincoln's life from people who knew him. Herndon wanted to write a faithful portrait of his friend, based on the hundreds of letters and interviews he had compiled, plus his own recollections. He was determined to present Lincoln as the man he actually was, not as a romanticized national hero and saint, and this meant revealing things other biographers would omit or elide, due to the puritanical conventions of that day. Such details included Lincoln’s suicidal depression and his contentious relationship with his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. And Herndon maintained that Ann Rutledge was Lincoln’s only true love.

Keywords/Tags: Ann Rutledge, Abraham Lincoln, poem, poems, poetry, love, lover, mistress, paramour, romance, romantic, quilt, grave, Dale Carnegie, William Herndon

 

Forums: