‘When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d’ by Whitman

Read one of the great poems of North American culture by Walt Whitman. The season, the convergence of heritage and present moment, the sounds and language of our nation, all these combine in a lasting artwork. Here are the first two sections of Whitman’s 1865 elegy for President Lincoln:

When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.
O powerful western fallen star!
O shades of night—O moody, tearful night!
O great star disappear’d—O the black murk that hides the star!
O cruel hands that hold me powerless—O helpless soul of me!
O harsh surrounding cloud that will not free my soul.

9 Responses to ‘When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d’ by Whitman

  1. Steve says:

    Brings me back to Dublin, where Thomas Kinsella, a poet and lecturer often quoted this poem and held it up for our critical attention as a great piece of work.
    Another Whitman poem I love to read or hear read is “By the Bivouc’s Fitful Flame.”

  2. John Quealey says:

    Many years ago we brought Lilacs to school and the good sisters would put them in a vase and and place the vase in front of a statue of Blessed Mary.The flowers were from our yard how simple just beautilful.

  3. Marie says:

    Lilacs and Lily of the Valley were the most popular “back in the day” for Mary in her month of May. Remember the May procession and these words?

    Bring flowers of the fairest
    Bring flowers of the rarest
    From garden and woodland
    And hillside and vale
    Our full hearts are swelling
    Our Glad voices telling
    The praise of the loveliest
    Rose of the vale

    O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today
    Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May
    O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today
    Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May…

    Beautifull hymn recorded by:
    Frank Patterson – 1996
    Daniel O’Donnell – 2003
    John McDermott
    Phil Coulter

  4. Corey says:


    I remember some of my teachers at Notre Dame loving Lily of the Valley. I also remember the day some kid made the mistake of picking a Lady Slipper for one of our teachers! Finally, I remember we all had to recite

    Lovely Lady dressed in blue ——-
    Teach me how to pray!
    God was just your little boy,
    Tell me what to say!

    However, my favorite kindergarten memory was the day I got a chocolate scented marker out of a box of Coco Puffs. I used it to draw a candy bar, and wrote “CANDY BAR IT IS GOD” on the paper. The nuns were unamused by my first-commandment violating typo!

  5. Marie says:

    Lovely Lady – a beautiful prayer/poem – was especially used with very “young” Catholics. It’s a wonderful memory.

  6. John Quealey says:

    I do not remember Coco Puffs when I was in kindergarten maybe Maries husband Bill might.

  7. Marie says:

    Cheerios was my cereal of choice.I don’t remember my mother ever buying Coco Puffs even in the later days. Corey is lots younger than we are John! His dad was one of my students…

  8. Corey says:

    John – we met on a cemetery tour a year or so back. My mom knows your family from the Sacred Heart neighborhood.