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Little Giffen

(Francis Orray Tickner)

Out of the focal and foremost fire,
Out of the hospital walls as dire,
Smitten of grape-shot and gangrene,
(Eighteenth battle, and he sixteen!)
Spectre! such as you seldom see,
Little Giffen, of Tennessee

“Take him – and welcome!” the surgeons said;
“Little the doctor can help the dead!”
So we took him and brought him where
The balm was sweet in the summer air;
And we laid him down on a wholesome bed –
Utter Lazarus, heel to head!

And we watched the war with abated breath –
Skeleton boy against skeleton death.
Months of torture, how many such!
Weary weeks of the stick and crutch;
And still a glint of the steel-blue eye
Told of a spirit that wouldn’t die,

And didn’t. Nay, more! in death’s despite
The crippled skeleton learned to write.
“Dear Mother,” at first, of course; and then
“Dear Captain,” inquiring about the men.
Captain’s answer: “Of eighty and five,
Giffen and I are left alive.”

Word of gloom from the war, one day;
“Johnston pressed at the front, they say.”
Little Giffen was up and away;
A tear – his first – as he bade good-by,
Dimmed the glint of his steel-blue eye.
“I’ll write, if spared!” There was news of the fight;
But none of Giffen. He did not write.

I sometimes fancy that, were I king
Of the princely knights of the Golden Ring,
With the song of the minstrel in mine ear,
And the tender legend that trembles here,
I’d give the best on his bended knee,
The whitest soul of my chivalry,
For Little Giffen, of Tennessee.

I loved the simplicity of the poem. It was so quick and easy to understand. I love poems that rhyme and this one did that very elegantly. This poem is really good at representing the theme of war. It shows us that the victims of war are not always the old jaded soldiers, but the young, lively soldiers who hadn’t even begun their lives. The sadness and realism in the poem is how it represents the theme of war.

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Posted by on November 16, 2011 in Civil War Poetry



South African School Pledge

Drafted in February 2008 because the South African government wanted to get their schoolchildren more civically involved. It is based on the Preamble to the South African Constitution, and was criticized because many people thought it was meant to make children feel guilty about the past.

We the youth of South Africa
Recognising the injustices of our past,
Honour those who suffered and sacrificed for justice and freedom.
We will respect and protect the dignity of each person,
And stand up for justice
We sincerely declare that we shall uphold the rights and values of our Constitution
And promise to act in accordance with the duties and responsibilities
that flow from these rights.

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Posted by on August 28, 2011 in Pledges



Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni is an American poet who was born in 1943 in Tennessee. She is currently alive, and has won dozens of awards and recognitions including three literature awards from the NAACP, twenty honorary degrees, and the Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award. She has also received the keys to some of America’s largest cities. One of her most famous poems is “A Poem Of Friendship”

A Poem Of Friendship

We are not lovers
because of the love
we make
but the love
we have

We are not friends
because of the laughs
we spend
but the tears
we save

I don’t want to be near you
for the thoughts we share
but the words we never have
to speak

I will never miss you
because of what we do
but what we are

I did not especially like this poem. It basically just talks about what it means to be a friend. What I don’t like about Ms. Giovanni’s poem and her style is that this doesn’t feel like a poem to me. This is just a collection of statements. I don’t feel like there is even the smallest ounce of emotion in the writing. It feels generic and juvenile as if her publisher is asking her to churn out a poem a week and this is what she comes up with. I won’t pretend that I have any poetic skill at all, but this just really isn’t doing it for me. The only thing I enjoyed about the poem is that it was clear cut and I didn’t have to think very hard about the meaning of it. It was fairly obvious.

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Posted by on May 26, 2011 in Poets



Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks was Twentieth Century American poet. She was born in Kansas in 1917, and won many awards before in death in Chicago in 2000. These awards include American Academy of Arts and Letters award, The Frost Medal, the National Endowment for the Arts Award. She was a Poet Laureate for the state of Illinois, and also served as a consultant for poetry in the Library of Congress.

One of Ms. Brooks’s most famous poems is “We Real Cool”.

“We Real Cool”


We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon

I picked this poem because it was short and seemed to have a fun and simple meaning. It gives me the impression that these people are going to leave school to have a good time. They don’t care about the consequences, they want to enjoy themselves before they die. This is a pretty simple theme, but she implements it in a a cute, rhyming way.

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Posted by on May 26, 2011 in Poets



Orwellian Paranoia

It’s easy to look at today’s society as being dominated by “Big Brother.” Look around at all of the people who have access to your data and you automatically jump to the conclusion that people are trying to control your life. I don’t believe that Orwell’s prediction of the future was at all accurate, however. In 1984, the government watched its citizens to control them. Today, they watch us to protect us. Several big companies have access to our personal information, but this isn’t meant to harm us, it is supposed to make it easier for them to tailor their products to our liking. Overall, George Orwell’s 1984 was a paranoid prediction of a dystopian future that would not happen.

People assume that because the government expanded its power of surveillance to include civilians that they are automatically the target of some secret government operation. In truth, the government has neither the desire, nor the means to spy on the average American citizen. Even if every federal employee (some 2.15 million) was dedicated to spying on the American people, there would only be enough eyes for seven tenths of a percent of the population. Moreover, the government doesn’t care what the average person is doing. It is concerned with finding the threats to society.

The more pressing privacy concern for most people should be the sale of personal information on the internet. The Washington Post’s article on Google storing search information is a good example of this. Google isn’t interested suppressing your thoughts, however, it wants to learn from your thoughts. Google uses the information you give it to make itself better. Google sells this information to companies that design products to fit your needs. Far from wanting to oppress users’ thoughts and feelings, Google encourages free thought because they learn from it.

In many ways, I enjoy this dynamic relationship with data companies. Searching for things on the internet becomes easier as Google learns about my habits. In addition, products are now being designed more effectively to meet the needs and wants of the consumers with fewer mistakes because the companies understand the consumers better than ever before. Perhaps one day you’ll walk into the store and it will be tailored specifically to your shopping experience. Websites will recognize users and format themselves accordingly. The possibilities are endless!

George Orwell predicted a future in which an oppressive government would use excessive surveillance to control the lives and minds of its people.  Even the language in the novel was a means of mind control,”don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?… Has it ever occurred to your, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?” It is not, however, the goal of companies like Google to narrow your thoughts. Indeed, by 2050 Google may have learned everything there is to know about us and our past, and we may be learning from it.


Dinan, Steven. “Largest-ever Federal Payroll to Hit 2.15 Million – Washington Times.”Washington Times – Politics, Breaking News, US and World News. 2 Feb. 2010. Web. 06 Apr. 2011. <;.

Walker, Leslie. “Leslie Walker – Forgot What You Searched For? Google Didn’t –” The Washington Post: National, World & D.C. Area News and Headlines – 21 Jan. 2006. Web. 06 Apr. 2011. <;.

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Posted by on April 7, 2011 in Beyond 1984



European Politics 1478-1535

Henry VIII

Politics in Europe during the Thomas More’s lifetime were as chaotic and flawed as they are today. There was a monarchy in England, the home of Thomas More, and a parliament which helped the king rule. During Thomas’s life King Henry VII did everything he could to acquire more power for himself, something More was vehemently opposed to. More also believed that the Parliament overstepped its bounds when it overruled the decisions of the papacy.

For More the ideal political system was not one in which a single person or group of people ruled for his or their own benefit. More believed that the needs of society as a whole were more important than those of a king or ruling party. For this reason More opposed giving the kind any more power than he already had.

The Decapitation of Thomas More

Henry VIII however had already succeeded in gaining great political power. during his reign he desired to divorce his wife, and when the Church refused to grant him an annulment he declared himself Supreme Head of the Church. A declaration that angered More and caused him to resign from his public life.

Because of this refusal, the king exercised the powers More had hated so much and had Thomas executed by decapitation.

It is because of the the political turmoil leading up to his death that Thomas More began writing Utopia. He dreamed of an England in which everyone was taken care of in a fair and equal way. Thomas wanted to see a place where everyone’s needs were met. Instead he lived in a world where powerful people played political games to increase their own wealth and prestige.

Fournier, Keither. “St. Thomas More: A Man for This Season – Politics & Policy.” Catholic Online. 22 June 2008. Web. 26 Oct.                   2010. <;.


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Posted by on October 26, 2010 in Thomas More's Utopia


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