The Ballad of the Bear Hunt

Lincoln adored poetry and began composing poems in his teens. He remained an avid reader and writer of verse throughout his life; his last documented poem was written in 1863. He wrote this vivid and comic poem about a bear hunt a month after his election to the U.S. House of Representatives. It may well be “the third canto” that he mentioned in his letter to Andrew Johnston on 25 February 1847 (shown nearby). Johnston’s reason for not selecting this ballad for publication with Lincoln’s other poem in the Quincy Whig remains unclear. The fourth stanza on the right-hand page reads But who did this, and how to trace / What’s true from what’s a lie, / Like lawyers, in a murder case / They stoutly argufy.