Emily Downs

Journal #6

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For my sixth journal, I'm going to discuss "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" by Walt Whitman. This is a fairly short poem about science versus nature and is one of my favorite poems. One interesting characteristic about this poem is the repetition used in the first four lines. Each of these first four lines starts with the word, "When" and explains what the narrator is doing. The bored tone of voice the narrator uses here is evident by this repition, as well as the fact that the first four lines are long-winded and cluttered, especially the line, "When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them," the "add, divide, and measure them" is unecessary and adds to the exasperation in tone of the narrator which contrasts with the four last lines. The four last lines are short and varied, employing a flow that wasn't used in the first four lines. While the beginning half of the poem feels clunky and almost odd, the last half pulls the subject together and ends with a sort of "Aha!" moment. The reader reads the beginning of the poem, wonders what the heck the narrator is talking about and why he's doing it so annoyingly, and then is caught by the beauty of the last four lines and how lovely and simple they are. The set up of the poem coincides so well with the subject; the narrator is "tired and sick" of the "learn'd astronomer" and only wants to look at the stars without overthinking them.

Personally, I have always loved this poem because when you think of the stars in terms of science and math, it can almost detract (in my opinion) from their simplicity and their wonder. The fact that they are gaseous balls of light millions - or trillions! - of miles away can sometimes be unecessarily complex when all you want to do is take a walk outside and look at how pretty they are. And I really love how the poem itself mirrors that. I've always loved and identified with Whitman's love of nature, especially with the simple beauty of nature compared to how much we, as humans, enjoy breaking it down and classifying it instead of just looking at it. Not that I'm saying science is a bad, thing, of course not, but sometimes you don't want to listen to someone lecture about what a star is, sometimes you just want to look at them.

Here's a kind of odd rendition of the poem, somebody took a picture of Uncle Walt (as my sophomore English teacher calls him!) and animated it, setting it to this poem.

And here's a pretty picture of the night sky over Mt. Rainier:


Journal #5

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My fifth journal is going to focus on the Address Delivered at the Dedication of the Cemetary at Gettysburg, November 19, 1863, better known as simply The Gettysburg Address. This is the most famous of Lincoln's speeches and remains, arguably, one of the most famous in US History. Not because of its length, which is fairly short, but because of the power Lincoln was able to give the few words he said. Lincoln's tone is direct and almost sparse, however, it is still elegant and flowing. In the last line of the very first paragraph, Lincoln says, "...dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." This line, which is talking about the reason for the Civil War in the first place (the abolition of slavery) at once reminds the audience just what the soldiers who were buried at the Gettysburg Cemetery were fighting for. He continues by saying that the Civil War is testing whether "that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure." In the next paragraph, Lincoln says, "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," reminding the audience that they still have so much else to do if they want to end the war and reunite America. At the very end, Lincoln reminds the audience once more what they are fighting for: "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."

Even though the Gettysburg Address is one of the shorter presidential speeches I've seen, it still is one of the most powerful. And to me, the fact that Lincoln was able to convey the power of his ideas in such few words is the mark of a true genius. To me, any idiot can write a lengthy and flowery speech, but to do what Lincoln did and to make such an impact in a little over two minutes is monumental. One thing I found particularly interesting was the sentence where he said, "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here." It is almost ironic, considering that people don't tend to remember particular soldiers or what exactly they did, but they do remember Lincoln's address. I also particularly like the line, "That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom." Lincoln never forgets just exactly what the Civil War is about - freedom. The two sides of the Civil War, the soldiers and the slaves, are both paid attention to by Lincoln in his speech.

For my graphics, I'm including the only confirmed picture of Lincoln at the dedication of the cemetery:

and also I am including a recitation of the Gettysburg Address done by Jeff Daniels.

Journal #4

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For my fourth journal, I want to talk about one of my favorite poets, Edgar Allan Poe, and my favorite poem by him, Annabel Lee. This is a poem about the love between the narrator and the titular character, Annabel Lee. It employs rising tension, climax, falling tension and use of repetition to create the image of a true love that cannot be destroyed by the circumstances of both the people in the relationship. In all the verses, the name Annabel Lee is repeated (and capitalized as ANNABEL LEE) to show its importance, to emphasize the narrator's attachment to her. Also, the line "in a kingdom by the sea" is repeated in almost all of the stanzas. The repition adds beauty to the poem, the idea of a kingdom by the sea conjures up images both glittering and bleak. It also adds a sense of place to the poem, so it seems more real - there is a time, there is a place, and the love interest of the narrator is named (Annabel Lee) which gives it dimension. This is also an interesting poem because it uses the ideas of "winged seraphs of heaven," which wasn't exactly a commonplace idea in Poe poems and stories. Yet, in true Poe fashion, the angels and seraphs are shown to be jealous things who kill Annabel Lee out of jealousy for their love.

There is a good sense of flow to this poem as well. The first two verses deal with talking about the love between the narrator and Annabel Lee and their situation in life, the second two verses deal with Annabel Lee being taken away and then dying from a cold wind, and the third two verses deal with the narrator dealing with her death, knowing that their love is stronger than death and visiting her grave to be with her. The first two verses have the rising tension - the love is introduced and the reader knows something is about to happen. The second two verses are the climax, Annabel Lee is taken by the jealousy of the angels and dies, and the third two verses are the falling tension/ the resolution, the reader learns how the narrator deal with Annabel Lee's death.

Personally, I love this poem because it combines the images of a lovely kingdom by the sea with the sad and cold idea of a sepulchre and tomb by the sea. Like I said above, the idea of the sea can be both dazzling and bleak - depending on the mood and the tone. I also love that the use of the angels and seraphs here isn't used as a metaphor for goodness, in fact, the angels are seen as creatures who are so jealous of the narrator and Annabel Lee's love that they take her away from him. Mostly I love this poem because it deal with the idea of true love and true love lost. I've always been fascinated by the idea of true love - I have always been one to romanticize the idea, just like Poe. I love the beauty and sadness. My favorite verse has to be, "But our love it was stronger by far than the love / Of those who were older than we- / Of many far wiser than we- / And neither the angels in heaven above, / Nor the demons down under the sea, / Can ever dissever my soul from the soul / Of the beautiful Annabel Lee." The idea of love living beyond death is one I appreciate and personally like.

For my graphics, I'm including the handwritten version of Annabel Lee:

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Journal #3

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For my third journal, I'm going to talk about Chapter III. Beauty from "Nature" by Ralph Waldo Emerson. What I find most interesting about this piece is the fact that Emerson not only explains the concept of beauty as, "a pleasure arising from outline, color, motion, and grouping," but goes on to theorize about why people find things beautiful - especially why nature itself is beautiful. And Emerson explains that one "may distribute the aspects of Beauty in a threefold manner." He explains that the three ways beauty can be distributed is this: that there is a simple delight in the perception of natural forms (nature), that something is perfect when it has a spiritual element and that something becomes beautiful when it has an intellectual element. Emerson uses at times scientific tone to explain these different aspects of beauty in nature and then also uses his own passionate emotions. For example, he is more scientific and factual when he says, "The eye is the best of artists. By the mutual action of its structure and of the laws of light, perspective is produced, which integrates every mass of objects, of what character soever into a well colored and shaded globe, so that where the particular objects are mean and unaffecting, the landscape which they compose, is round and symmetrical." However, he is distinctly more passionate when he says, "Give me health and a day, and I will make the pomp of emperors ridiculous. The dawn is my Assyria; the sun-set and moon-rise my Paphos, and unimaginable realms of faerie, broad noon shall be my England of the senses and understanding: the night shall be my Germany of mystic philosophy and dreams." The contrast shows that Emerson is both an intellectual and also a romantic, two important ideals of the transcendental movement.

This was my favorite part of the Nature essay, mostly because I felt like I agreed with everything that Emerson was talking about, and I enjoyed the fact that he was able to explain things in such a perfect way. The entire essay is filled with lines like this, "The western clouds divided and subdivided themselves into pink flakes modulated with tints of unspeakable softness; and the air had so much life and sweetness, that it was a pain to come within doors," and like this, "The leafless trees become spires of flame in the sunset, with the blue east for their background, and the stars of the dead calices of flowers, and every withered stem and stubble rimed with frost, contribute something to the mute music." Finally, I think the entire chapter of the essay is summed up in this line, "The world thus exists to the soul to satisfy the desire of beauty." According to Emerson, human nature cannot compare to the perfection that is nature, so the soul doesn't find beauty in other humans but in nature itself. Personally, I think that's a really interesting idea.

I'm including a few pictures of Concord, Massachusetts, where Emerson (along with his friend Henry David Thoreau) lived for much of his adult life.

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(All of these pictures were found on Flickr)

Journal #2

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For Journal #2, I'm going to focus on "A Psalm of Life" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. This poem is many different things. It is a lament to the fact that life is fleeting ("And our hearts, though stout and brave, / Still, like muffled drums, ar beating / Funeral marches to the grave.") and, in some ways, meaningless ("Dust thou art, to dust returnest"), but it is also almost a battle cry for people to live a life of meaning despite the fact that life is meaningless - "Be not like dumb, driven cattle! / Be a hero in the strife!" It is also a reminder that people have made their lives meaningful, so attempting to put meaning into life is not impossible: "Lives of great men all remind us / We can make our lives sublime." There is a flow to this poem, for the first four verses are melancholy in their reflection on how quickly life passes, ending with the line, "Funeral marches to the grave." The fifth verse takes up the idea of "marches" and begins a triumphant verse saying, "In the world's broad field of battle..." Although in the previous verse the word "marches" was tied to the idea of funerals and graves, it fits in with the next verse that talks about battles and heroes. And a few verses after, the idea of "lives of great men all remind us," also ties back to the idea of heroes and battles.

While the first few verses speak of sad things, in my personal opinion, this is not a sad poem. Although it accepts that "art is long, and time is fleeting," it also says, "Life is real-life is earnest-" and implores people to "Let us then be up and doing, / With a heart for any fate" It is imploring people to accept life for what it is and make the most of it - to "Leave behind us / Footsteps on the sands of time." As someone who isn't a huge fan of poetry, the first reading of this poem was difficult - it completely went over my head. However, after reading it closely a few (actually, more than a few) times, I definitely grew to like the poem more and more each time I read it. I especially like the seventh verse: "Lives of great men all remind us / We can make our lives sublime, / And, departing, leave behind us / Footsteps on the sands of time." Personally I can connect to that verse the most because I have always felt that I've wanted to make an impact with my life, and knowing that other people have done it makes the idea seems somehow more attainable.

For this journal, I thought I would include two different videos. One is simply a reading of A Psalm of Life. There were plenty of different options to choose from (I had a hard time deciding which version was my favorite) but I decided on this one:

And for the second video I chose to include is the song "You Love To Sing" by the band Copeland. I feel like there are so many parallels between Longfellow's poem and this song, especially the chorus, which says, "Sing, with your head up, with your eyes closed, not because you love the song, because you love to sing." I always felt that it meant that even if your life is difficult to lead, you should still live as full as you can because life is great in general. I think there is definitely some connection between that and what Longfellow is saying, that you should lead a full life, even though it may be short.

Journal #1

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For my first journal, I'm focusing on The Cherokee Memorials, specifically the Memorial of the Cherokee Citizens, December 18, 1829. The main literary device that caught my eye was how the Cherokee Nation basically appealed to the Senate and House's vanity, saying, "You are great and renowned -the nation which you represent is like a mighty man who stands in his strength." They are incredibly humble, and their humility continues throughout the entire entreaty, saying, "Permit us to ask, what better right can the people have to a country, than the right of inheritance and immemorial peaceable possession?" The 'permit us to ask' helps in portraying the Cherokee nation as victims, but not in a way that will offend the people who have abused them. They are not trying to anger the government or rally it to their cause, instead, they are asking for the government's pity. Excessive flattery also is used, like in lines like, "You represent a virtuous, intelligent, and Christian nation." They are showing themselves as educated, "civilized" (Christian) men who want their land back. Even though the memorials were not listened to, I personally think that they had more of a chance with humility and flattery than they would have had they written their memorials in anger (which obviously is still there even though it is veiled - it is apparent in lines such as, "We are told, if we do not leave teh country which we dearly love, and betake ourselves to the Western wilds, the laws of the State will be extended over us.")

My own personal opinion of the Memorials was that they seemed very sad. Knowing that they were virtually ignored by the Senate, the House and the President is in stark contrast with the almost pleading way the Cherokee Nation goes about asking, basically, to be left alone. I also personally feel that this is a blot on American history, because of the fact that only a few years before, the American government was pleading with the British government for pretty much the same thing, as acknowledged by the Cherokee nation, "We have always supposed that this understanding of the treaties was in concordance with the views of the Government, nor have we ever imagined that any body would interpret them otherwise." They continue by saying, "From the people of these United States, who, perhaps, of all men under heaven, are the most religious and free, it cannot be expected," (saying they cannot expect the United States will deny their own freedom). In my opinion, they're almost calling the people in Government hypocrites without saying that they're hypocrites.

The oppresion of the State of Georgia and the American government and the fact that they ignored the Cherokee memorials lead to the Trail of Tears, the migration of the Cherokee nation living in the area around Georgia to migrate west, as depicted in these two images:
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Previous Work

My prompt:

"Select a few lines from a specific piece of Revolutionary War literature – lines that you find particularly memorable or inspiring. Write an essay in which you identify the line or passage, explain its relationship to the work in which it is found, and analyze the reasons for its effectiveness."

My lines:

"When e'er his Country needs a faithful guard,

No dire event can find him unprepar'd,

For arts of peace or war.-"
From the poem "An ode on the birth day of the illustrious George Washington, President of the United States"
Lines 22-23

Emily Downs
American Lit
Revolutionary War Mini Essay
October 19, 2010

The lines “When e’er his Country needs a faithful guard, / No dire event can find him unprepar’d, / For arts of peace or war.-” from Annis Stockton’s poem “An ode on the birth day of the illustrious George Washington, President of the United States,” in comparison to the rest of the poem, which highlights President Washington’s features and good deeds, showcases just how much the early United States idolized and adored the first president. Stockton begins the poem with these lines, “Fair rise the Morn that gave our heroe birth, / And with it peace descend to bless the earth.” From this very first line we know that this is a poem intended to flatter Washington – this woman is obviously not a critic of him. The idea of Washington as a “heroe” and Washington as someone who is never “unprepar’d” work together to strengthen the idea that this man is, despite the fact that we know Washington was not eager to become President, the perfect leader.

Stockton shows that Washington has been a “faithful guard” in “arts of peace or war” because of the “noble qualities” that “enrich his mind.” She goes on to say, “When Savage herds invade our fertile plains…His energy is seen - / Collects the heroes from their rural home, / Their long neglected helmets they assume, / And peace is heard again,” saying that he has the ability to rally troops to him, he has the ability to energize men to defend their country. She also highlights his “ardent zeal,” “policy refine’d” and his “watchfulness and care.” These specific qualities of Washington tie back into the lines of “No dire event can find him unprepar’d, / For arts of peace or war,” because these qualities can only help him make decisions during dire times of both peace and war. Watchfulness and care are two qualities Washington can use to make sure the United States isn’t in an unnecessary war, his refined policy making skills can help both peace and wartime and ardent zeal is a crucial trait to have when leading one’s country.

Stockton also uses extensive metaphor to show how much of a beloved hero Washington truly is; these metaphors support her assertion that “no dire event can find him unprepar’d.” Stockton’s main metaphors come at the beginning and the end of the poem. The first is, “With Myrtle crown’d fair Freedom hail the morn, / On which your friend our much lov’d chief was born.” And just before these lines, Stockton says, “But let the loves and all the graces Come, / Let nature smiling Shed a rich perfume, / And antedate the Spring.” The images presented by the words “Freedom,” “loves,” “graces,” “nature smiling,” “rich perfume,” and “Spring,” all connote the idea of a beautiful day – for this is a poem about Washington’s birth day. And as Stockton was obviously not present on the day of Washington’s birth, the reader knows that this is obviously a metaphor designed to flatter him. If this were a critique, Stockton might have painted a picture of a rainy day when a villainous man was brought into the world.

Through both metaphor and extremely flattering praise, Stockton paints a picture a man who, defined by the three lines “When e’er his Country needs a faithful guard, / No dire event can find him unprepar’d, / For arts of peace or war,” was both a universal hero and a valued friend.