Weekly Poems: By Washington and Lincoln

BY Arts Desk  February 16, 2009 at 11:39 AM EST

For Presidents Day (and two days after Valentines Day), here are poems by two presidents that hit on the theme of love:

Between 1749 and 1750, a young and seemingly lovesick George Washington went on a surveying expedition for Lord Thomas Fairfax in Virginia’s Northern Neck. He kept a diary on the trip traipsing through wild Virginia, and in it he wrote two love poems. Here’s one of them:

Oh Ye Gods why should my Poor Resistless Heart
Stand to oppose thy might and Power
At Last surrender to cupids feather’d Dart
And now lays Bleeding every Hour
For her that’s Pityless of my grief and Woes
And will not on me Pity take
Ill sleep amongst my most Inviterate Foes
And with gladness never with to Wake
In deluding sleepings let my Eyelids close
That in an enraptured Dream I may
In a soft lulling sleep and gentle repose
Possess those joys denied by Day

Things turned out all right for poor, resistless-hearted George. He eventually got over Frances Alexander, his infatuation at the time.

~

On Sept. 28, 1858, Abraham Lincoln visited an inn in Winchester, Ill., in the midst of a heated U.S. Senate campaign against Stephen A. Douglas. A girl named Rosa Haggard, a daughter of the innkeeper, asked Lincoln to sign her autograph album. Here’s what Lincoln wrote:

To Rosa—
You are young, and I am older;
     You are hopeful, I am not—
Enjoy life, ere it grow colder—
     Pluck the roses ere they rot.

Teach your beau to heed the lay—
     That sunshine soon is lost in shade—
That now’s as good as any day—
     To take thee, Rosa, ere she fade.

For more poetry and for Cynthia Zarin’s poem about Lincoln, visit our Poetry Series page.