Friday, July 08, 2011

For the love of beautiful writing

As I write this I'm very moved. But, I'm a sucker for this sort of thing.

I'm currently teaching a Grad class for Harrisburg University. I'm privileged to work with some of the area's best teachers and learned people. Yesterday was day one of a series of days where we study "web 2.0" tools and their impact on teaching and learning.

Last night, when I read the discussion forums, I was struck by the eloquent writing of the members of the class. Having seen my share of poor spelling and bad grammar and incomplete sentences, etc, I was impressed by the writing of this group. I began the day by mentioning that.

I further confessed that I am a sucker for beautiful writing. I also told the story of when I taught 8th graders and, during a class where we were studying the Civil War (long story) I mentioned that, if they wanted to read one of THE MOST beautiful love letters ever written to research Sullivan Ballou and his letter to his wife Sarah. It was written, prophetically, just two weeks before he was killed in the second battle of Bull Run/ Manassas. I told them my class that I was so surprised to later find a few of those dear 8th graders sniffling back tears and when I casually observed their computer screens I saw that they were reading the letter.

This was just in passing. I then went on with the class.

Tonight I was reading their discussion forum (Moodle) posts. One person, Lou, pasted in this portion of the Sullivan Ballou letter. No comment. Just this portion:

"Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me - perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar -- that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name. 
Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.
 But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours - always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. 
Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again."

Can you appreciate this? I LOVE my job. I'm a lucky man.

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