The poem memorializes President Kennedy, who was assassinated November 22, 1963 and laid to rest on the 25th of November. The next day, November 26, Berry begins his elegy: "We know the winter earth upon the body of the young president, and the early dark falling..." Berry and artist Shahn both signed this limited edition copy of the book, which makes the book collectible.
But it's the commemorative lines in a gift inscription from the book's previous owner that make the book truly appreciable in the context of cultural reaction to a written text. The sentiment of both poet and book owner symbolizes and echoes what a nation felt and struggled with in the aftermath of the death of a very popular president.
To commemorate the greatest personal tragedy we have ever known together--November 22, 1963.
For Elizabeth because I love her more than life itself and because we both--if from afar--loved John, Jr., Caroline, and Jacqueline, and J.F.K.
May 18, 1964
A newspaper clipping about the death of JFK was also laid in the book.