The main speaker at the opening of the military cemetery at Gettysberg was, of course, Edward Everett.
His speech was 13,607 words long, took two hours to deliver, and was reckoned (by its originator, at least) to be so important and magnificent that it was reproduced in print for all to admire.
After Mr Everett's long speech, the committee had arranged for the president to say a few words. Poor Abraham Lincoln had been feeling extremely unwell on his journey to Gettyburg - he was sickening for smallpox - but he gave a speech of just a few sentences that even now, after seven score and thirteen years, still raises the hairs on the back of the neck.
Four score and seven years ago...
Just listen to the rhythm of that opening phrase. It's like the ocean surging in to shore.
The Gettysburg Address is so short that there's room to type it out here in full. It was given in the middle of a desperate war by a sick man (though not one with wooden teeth: we know almost nothing about Abraham Lincoln's teeth).
And it's fabulous.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that the nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we do not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus 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.
Word To Use Today: Lincoln. The city of Lincoln in England probably got its name from the Brythonic (Celtic) lindon, meaning the pool. (The same word gave us Dublin, which means black pool.)
Post a Comment
All comments are very welcome, but please make them suitable for The Word Den's family audience.