The Lincoln Memorial

The most dramatic sight in Washington DC was always the Lincoln Memorial.  The best time to go is at night when this great marble structure stands out against the black sky.  Traffic on the Arlington Memorial Bridge right behind tapers off after 7pm.  Then the echoes of conversations and clicking cameras are most obvious.  This gives an eerie feeling within.

The Lincoln Memorial to me is almost an historical contradiction.  Here in a regal chair sits the image of a crude rough hewn prairie lawyer.
Lincoln has deep set eyes, big ears and nose, a wart, and is brooding.  His hands also show an inner tension.  The right hand is clasping the chair as if trying to get hold of something.  The left is a clenched fist reflecting frustration.

His clothes are ill fitting and seem in places loose.  Lincoln was often careless about his appearance especially within the White House.  This man also lost weight from the strain of the war, which may be another reason for the large size of his suit.  At his death, Abraham Lincoln was 35 pounds underweight and most likely anorexic.

Overall, the statue  depicts a man who suffered from lifelong depression;  coped constant death threats from his election as President in 1860;  and faced not only a divided nation but deep splits in the North and the Republican Party over his Civil War policies.

Abraham Lincoln was also our first President to make a commitment to our cities.  He long ago left his pioneer past and had, at the time his election to the Presidency,  a thriving law practice.  He loved the theater; was an expert on Shakespeare, the Bible, and the literature and history of Ancient Greece and Rome.  He developed, in his 20s,  very cultured and refined taste.  At the same time, Lincoln never lost his ability to communicate with virtually anyone.

Many people believe that the back of Lincoln’s head shows a profile of Robert E. Lee.  Lee would be facing his native South and his home which now overlooks Arlington Nation Cemetery.  This makes for a fitting legend but no evidence exist that the sculptor intended that.   Nevertheless,  a close look at it does imply a profile.

Another bonus of going to the Lincoln Memorial at night relates to the humid swampy climate of Washington.  On a warm sticky summer night,  it about the only place with the city limits that offers a hint of a breeze.


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