Lincoln made use of all sorts of subtle alliterations in his first inaugural, as White points out: the words “directed,” “dreaded,” “delivered,” “devoted,” “destroy,” “dissolve,” “divide” and “deprecated,” are sprinkled through three consecutive sentences.
Lincoln’s second inaugural is even more artful, White writes, making use of a series of vivid metaphors and images, and a bit more alliteration too—“fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray.”
But more than that music, there is one more essential ingredient. One must grasp the moment in which one is living. Lincoln’s second inaugural is his best ever, because it said something bold: It called for mercy toward the Confederate enemy he’d been fighting since the last time he’d taken the oath of office.
“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God give us to see the right…”
Might Obama say something quite as bold and memorable? We'll see on Monday.