Nancy Hanks

Back Next

February 12 marks U.S. President Abraham Lincoln's birthday in the United States. Lincoln was not the first U.S. president born in a log cabin, nor was he the first with a truly humble family. His life was harder than most, however, and the trials he overcame are truly inspirational.

Here's the well-known poem "Nancy Hanks," usually attributed to Rosemary Benet. The piece actually appeared in the book co-written by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet, "Book of Americans," published in 1933. Writer Julius Silberger added a few lines in reply to the poem, which are also found below. The two are usually quoted together in recent years.

horizontal rule

Nancy Hanks

If Nancy Hanks
Came back as a ghost,
Seeking news
Of what she loved most,
She'd ask first
"Where's my son?
What's happened to Abe?
What's he done?"

"Poor little Abe,
Left all alone.
Except for Tom,
Who's a rolling stone;
He was only nine,
The year I died.
I remember still
How hard he cried."

"Scraping along
In a little shack,
With hardly a shirt
To cover his back,
And a prairie wind
To blow him down,
Or pinching times
If he went to town."

"You wouldn't know
About my son?
Did he grow tall?
Did he have fun?
Did he learn to read?
Did he get to town?
Do you know his name?
Did he get on?"

- Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet

horizontal rule

A Reply To Nancy Hanks

Yes, Nancy Hanks,
The news we will tell
Of your Abe
Whom you loved so well.
You asked first,
"Where's my son?"
He lives in the heart
Of everyone.

- Julius Silberger