"...It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
- Closing words of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863
Abraham Lincoln's iconic Gettysburg Address, given 150 years ago today in honor of the dedication of the battlefield cemetery that would become Gettysburg National Cemetery, lives large within the historical conscience of our nation. So it should. It is a brief and simple message, yet its beautifully written call to honor the dead and continue the work of preserving the nation for which they died still has the power to stir patriotism in Americans today.
On this anniversary of the address I have enjoyed reading many tributes to Lincoln and his carefully crafted speech. I could not help but be inspired again by his stirring call "to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought [at Gettysburg] have thus far so nobly advanced".
Why do his words continue to reverberate throughout history? Lincoln's speech was pure poetry, as Grant Oster at Hankering for History has explained so well:
"Because of its brevity and poetic flow, the Gettysburg Address has become one of the most repeated speeches to date."
"If you listen and analyze the speech, it is poetic – from start to finish. With its conciseness and abundance of literary devices, Lincoln’s speech would contain many characteristics of common day poetry, such as: allusion, alliteration, antithesis, grammatical parallelism, and repetition."
As a dedicated historian and a great lover of poetry, I pause to celebrate the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's brilliant speech. May his words continue to echo down the centuries, stirring new generations to take up his call to preserve the memory and continue the work of those who gave their lives for this nation's freedoms.