“When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed”

“An elegy on the death of President Abraham Lincoln (1809-65) by the US poet Walt Whitman (1819-92), published in 1865-6 and incorporated into Leaves of Grass in 1867. Lincoln was assassinated on the evening of 14 April 1865, and died the following morning. It was lilac time.

‘When lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed,

And the great star early drooped in the western sky in the night,

I mourned, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.’

There is a musical setting for soloists, chorus and orchestra (1970) by the US composer Roger Sessions (1896-1985). The US writer Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) entitled one of his early collections of poetry When Elephants Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d (1973).”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

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