…we here highly resolve…

by jbkeenanjr

Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg (seated, center)...

Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg (seated, center). Ward Hill Lamon is seated to Lincoln’s right. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

we are engaged …

We are met 

We have come 

we can not dedicate 

we can not consecrate 

we can not hallow 

that from these honored dead 

that we here highly resolve 

that this nation, under God 

government of the people,

by the people,

for the people 

Despite the suggestive images of birth, testing, and rebirth, the speech is surprisingly bare of ornament. The language itself is made strenuous, its musculature easily traced, so that even the grammar becomes a form of rhetoric. By repeating the antecedent as often as possible, instead of referring to it indirectly by pronouns like “it” and “they,” or by backward referential words like “former” and “latter,” Lincoln interlocks his sentences, making of them a constantly self-referential system. This linking up by explicit repetition amounts to a kind of hook-and-eye method for joining the parts of his address. The rhetorical devices are almost invisible, since they use no figurative language. (I,  NOV 23 2011, 2:48 PM ET, highlight them typographically here.)

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in A GREAT CIVIL WAR, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

We are met on a great BATTLE-FIELD of THAT WAR.

We have come to dedicate a portion of THAT FIELD, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground.

The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from THESE HONORED DEAD we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—

that we here highly resolve that THESE DEAD shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

— A. Lincoln