April 9:  Comparison and Contrast Day

On this day in 1865 at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, Ulysses S. Grant, general of the Union army, and Robert E. Lee, general of the Confederate army, met to negotiate the terms of surrender that would end the Civil War.  

General Robert E. Lee surrenders at Appomattox Court House 1865.jpgThe meeting between the two highest ranking officers in their respective armies was a brief and cordial one.  Lee, wearing his full dress uniform, contrasted with Grant, who wore his muddy field uniform. Lee asked that the terms of his army’s surrender to be put down in writing, so Grant wrote them down.  The official terms of surrender pardoned all officers and enlisted men of the Confederate army and required the surrender of all equipment, including horses.

After reading the terms, Lee requested that his men be allowed to keep their horses since they would need them for late spring planting as they transitioned back to civilian life.  Grant did not change the written terms of the surrender, but he did promise Lee that any Confederate soldier who claimed a horse would be allowed to keep it. In addition, Confederate officers were allowed to keep their side arms.  Finally, Lee expressed his concern for his men who had been without food for days. Grant responded by arranging for rations to be sent to the hungry soldiers (1).

In one of the most frequently anthologized essays ever written, entitled “Grant and Lee: A Study in Contrasts,” Civil War historian Bruce Catton (1899-1978) presents a detailed study of the two generals and their meeting on April 9, 1865.

While emphasizing the strength, dignity, and intelligence of the two West Point graduates, Catton’s major focus in his essay is the contrasting ways in which the two men personified the two opposing forces in the Civil War.  

Lee stood for the old world transplanted to the new.  He represented the aristocracy and the chivalric ideal of the South, which was based on land ownership.  As Catton described Lee, he “embodied the noblest elements of his aristocratic ideal. Through him, the landed nobility justified itself.”

Grant, in contrast, represented the new breed of Americans.  Born on the frontier, the son of a tanner, Grant embodied the spirit of the North:  toughness, self-reliance, and hard work. In Catton’s words, men like Grant “stood for democracy, not from any reasoned conclusion about the proper ordering of human society, but simply because they had grown up in the middle of democracy and know how it worked.  Their society might have privileges, but they would be privileges each man had won for himself” (2).

Today’s Challenge:  Meeting of Minds

Who are some examples of pairs of individuals from the same profession that you might compare and contrast?  Brainstorm a list of pairs, such as, Grant and Lee (military), Dickinson and Plath (Poetry), Lennon and McCartney (music), Aristotle and Socrates (philosophy), Bird and Johnson (Basketball), or Lincoln and Washington (U.S. presidents).  Select one pair, and write a comparison and contrast composition, identifying specific areas of similarity and difference. Research the two individuals to find specific details that go beyond the obvious, and organize your details around a single central point.  For example, Catton’s comparison and contrast focused on those details that are relevant to how the two generals embodied the characteristics of their perspective sides. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  Grant was the modern man emerging; beyond him, ready to come to the stage, was the great age of steel and machinery, of crowded cities and a restless, burgeoning vitality.  Lee might have ridden down from the old age of chivalry, lance in hand, silken banner fluttering over his head. –Bruce Catton

1-https://www.nps.gov/apco/the-meeting.htm

2-Catton, Bruce.  “Grant and Lee: A Study in Contrasts.”

April 8:  Baseball Metaphor Day

On this day in 1974, Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run, eclipsing Babe Ruth’s record that had stood for 47 years.

The figurative use of the term home run, meaning a great success, began to appear in English in the second half of the 20th century. Of all sports, baseball, America’s pastime, has been the most fertile ground for metaphors. In fact, you can list a virtual A-Z of baseball metaphors. Remember though, to qualify for the list, the word or phrase must originate with baseball but also must be used to refer to situations outside of baseball.

The following list is from Christine Ammer’s book Southpaws & Sunday Punches:

All-star, ballpark figure, big league, box score, bush league, catbird seat*, change-up, clean-up hitter, curve ball, doubleheader, extra-innings, foul ball, go for the fences, get to first base, go to bat for, hard ball, in the ballpark, inside baseball, left field, line-up, major league, MVP, no runs, no hits, no errors, off base, on deck, pitch hit, rain check, screwball, southpaw, Tinker’s chance, wait ’til next year, whole new ballgame (1)

Today Challenge:  Field Your Dream Team

What category of person or things might you divide up into a team, using the metaphor of baseball positions?  Brainstorm some different categories of people or things with at least nine members, such as U.S. Presidents, Great Inventors, Great Philosophers, Great Poets, Movie Genres, Architectural Styles, Academic Disciplines, Great Rock-n-roll Bands, Novels by Stephen King, or Great American Novels.  Then, select one category and identify your 9-player line-up.

For example, below is an example using the nine parts of speech:

Nouns – Catcher

Verb – Pitcher

Adjective – 1st Base

Adverb – 2nd Base

Preposition – 3rd Base

Pronouns – Short Stop

Article – Left Field

Conjunction – Center Field

Interjection – Right Field

Quotation of the Day:  Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is. -Bob Feller

*For an excellent short story, full of baseball metaphors, see James Thurber’s short story The Catbird Seat.

1-Ammer, Christine.  Southpaws & Sunday Punches.  New York:  Plume, 1992.

April 7:  Review Day

On this day in 1967, Roger Ebert wrote his first movie review in the Chicago Sun Times.

Roger Ebert cropped.jpgEbert was born in Urbana, Illinois in 1942.  While attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he was the editor of the college newspaper.  He began his professional career in journalism in 1966 as a reporter and feature writer at the Chicago Sun-Times.  It was only a short time, however, before he began writing about movies. In the spring of 1967, he took the position as the Sun-Times movie critic, replacing Eleanor Keane.  Ebert’s first review was of the film Galia (1966).

Even though Ebert became the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1975, his real fame came when he began to review movies on television. Ebert teamed with Gene Siskel, movie critic for the Chicago Tribune, to broadcast a local television show reviewing movies.  

In 1982, the local show moved to a national audience.  The format was simple: Two movie reviewers sitting in a theater talking about movies.  After showing a movie clip, Siskel and Ebert would discuss the movie, giving it either a “thumbs-up” or “thumb-down” review.  When the two critics disagreed, sparks flew. When the two critics agreed, giving “Two Thumbs Up, the film became a must-see movie for millions (1).

Today’s Challenge:  All Thumbs Up or Down?

What are some specific works of art or design — a movie, album, television show, video game, or product — you know enough about to review?  Select something you feel strongly about — either good or bad — and write a detailed review, explaining what specifically you like or dislike.  (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  A bad review is like baking a cake with all the best ingredients and having someone sit on it. -Danielle Steel

1-http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/film-critic-roger-ebert-born  

April 6:  Pleasure of Books Day

On this day in 1933, William Lyon Phelps (1865-1943) — American educator, literary critic, and author — delivered a memorable radio address.  Phelps was a beloved professor of English literature at Yale University from 1901 to 1933. Much of Phelps’ teaching and writing was devoted to the examination of the English novel; it’s no surprise then that the topic he chose for his radio speech was the virtue of reading and collecting books (1).

Phelps begins his speech with an analogy to illustrate the virtue of owning books versus borrowing them; he then skillfully tacks on a simile, comparing a book to a forest:

The habit of reading is one of the greatest resources of mankind; and we enjoy reading books that belong to us much more than if they are borrowed. A borrowed book is like a guest in the house; it must be treated with punctiliousness, with a certain considerate formality. You must see that it sustains no damage; it must not suffer while under your roof. You cannot leave it carelessly, you cannot mark it, you cannot turn down the pages, you cannot use it familiarly. And then, someday, although this is seldom done, you really ought to return it.

But your own books belong to you; you treat them with that affectionate intimacy that annihilates formality. Books are for use, not for show; you should own no book that you are afraid to mark up, or afraid to place on the table, wide open and face down. A good reason for marking favorite passages in books is that this practice enables you to remember more easily the significant sayings, to refer to them quickly, and then in later years, it is like visiting a forest where you once blazed a trail. You have the pleasure of going over the old ground, and recalling both the intellectual scenery and your own earlier self.

For some, the charge of being a “bookworm” might be a put-down.  Not for Phelps. He makes the case that the habit of reading is anything but anti-social; instead, it offers us timeless, intimate access to the best of humanity:

Books are of the people, by the people, for the people. Literature is the immortal part of history; it is the best and most enduring part of personality. But book-friends have this advantage over living friends; you can enjoy the most truly aristocratic society in the world whenever you want it. The great dead are beyond our physical reach, and the great living are usually almost as inaccessible; as for our personal friends and acquaintances, we cannot always see them. Perchance they are asleep, or away on a journey. But in a private library, you can at any moment converse with Socrates or Shakespeare or Carlyle or Dumas or Dickens or Shaw or Barrie or Galsworthy. And there is no doubt that in these books you see these men at their best. They wrote for you. They “laid themselves out,” they did their ultimate best to entertain you, to make a favorable impression. You are necessary to them as an audience is to an actor; only instead of seeing them masked, you look into their innermost heart of heart. (2)

The truth of Phelps’ claim about the value of collecting and reading books might seem obvious.  However, a little over a month after Phelps’ address, German university students joined Nazi soldiers in Berlin to burn over 20,000 books.  (See May 10: Burned and Banned Books Day. On May 10, 1933, great works by authors such as Einstein, Freud, Hemingway, London, Proust, Marx, Wells, and Zola were heaped into piles and set afire (3).

Today’s Challenge:  Healthy Habits for Humanity

What are some examples of good habits that people can practice that will improve their lives?  You can probably think of a lot of bad habits that people struggle with, but as Phelps demonstrates, some habits can be beneficial.  Brainstorm a list of specific beneficial daily habits. Then, select one specific good habit, and write a short speech that makes the case for the importance of this good habit.  Provide your reasoning for the virtue of this habit and show your audience how this good habit with promote a more successful life. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  Most of my indoor life is spent in a room containing six thousand books; and I have a stock answer to the invariable question that comes from strangers. “Have you read all of these books?”

“Some of them twice.” -William Lyons Phelps

1-http://www.phelpsfamilyhistory.com/bios/william_lyon_phelps.asp

2-http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/phelps.htm

3-http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/triumph/tr-bookburn.htm

April 5:  Veto Day

Today is the anniversary of the first veto in American presidential history. On this day in 1792, President George Washington was presented a bill that would apportion representatives among the states, and he vetoed it. The word veto has its roots in Latin, literally translated I forbid. It dates back to the days of the Roman Senate when the Roman tribunes had the power to unilaterally refuse Senate legislation.

For more than 2,000 years, English has borrowed liberally from Latin, the most important language in European history. Long before English was established as a language of note, let alone a global language, Latin was the language of the Roman Empire, and even after the fall of Rome, Latin survived, evolving into what we know today as the Romance Languages: Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Romanian. Until the 20th century, Latin was the prestige language of government, religion, and academia. No wonder when a new republic was established in America, it turned to Latin words for its legislative practices and to Latin mottoes for its currency.

As noted by Wilfred Funk in Word Origins and Their Romantic Stories, some Latin words were Anglicized as they were adopted into English, a Germanic tongue. Hundreds of other words, however, came into English with little to no changes in spelling, which is one of the reasons English spelling is so idiosyncratic. Here are some examples of Latin words adopted directly into English:  recipe, vim, memorandum, stimulus, vacuum, veto, via, item, exit, minimum, affidavit (1).

Another rich source of English vocabulary is Greek, without which we would not have words like politics, rhetoric, and democracy.

Today’s Challenge:  From Government Argot to Political Zingers

When you think of the word “politics” or “government,” what words come to mind?  Brainstorm a list of at least ten words you would associate with government and/or politics.  

In his Political Dictionary, William Safire explores the meaning and history of over 1800 words and phrases that, like veto, have distinctive meanings in the context of government and politics.  The following is a small A to Z sample:

abolitionist, bandwagon, campaign, deterrent, entitlement, fascist, gerrymander, hegemony, incumbent, jingoism, know-nothings, liberal, mandate, neoconservatism, oversight, platform, quagmire, rhetoric, socialism, terrorism, unilateralism, vox populi, whistleblower, yahoo, zinger (2).

Research one word from Safire’s list or from your own.  Define the word, giving examples of how it is used in government and politics, along with some specific examples.  Also, research the word’s etymology. Does it come from Greek or Latin, like so many other political words do? Or, does it have a different origin? (Common Core Language 4 – Vocabulary Acquisition and Use)

Quotation of the Day:  . . . one ought to recognise that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language . . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. -George Orwell in “Politics and the English Language”

1-Wilfred Funk in Word Origins and Their Romantic Stories. Grosset & Dunlap, 1950.

2- Safire, William.  Safire’s Political Dictionary. Oxford University Press, 2008.

April 4:  Courage to Speak and Write Day

On this day we remember two individuals.  The first is a historical figure who demonstrated great courage by speaking; the second is a fictional character who demonstrated great courage by writing.

On the evening of April 4, 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who was running for the Democratic nomination for president, was preparing to give a campaign speech in Indianapolis.  Just before he was scheduled to speak to the predominately African-American audience, Kennedy learned that Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.

Kennedy was warned by the police that the crown had not yet heard the bad news and that they might become unruly or violent once they heard of King’s death. Despite the danger, Kennedy decided not only to address the audience but also to inform them of the tragedy.  

Kennedy spoke for fewer than five minutes, but what he said in those few minutes will never be forgotten.  He began by immediately delivering the bad news. After pausing for a moment to allow the shocked crowd to gather its wits, Kennedy reminded the audience of King’s efforts to replace violence with understanding and compassion.  He showed empathy for his audience, comparing the anger they were feeling to the anger he felt when his brother was killed by an assassin five years earlier in Dallas. Instead of focusing on the racial divide in the United States, Kennedy instead made an appeal for unity and for justice:

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

Like Martin Luther King, Jr. did before him, Kennedy appealed to hope over despair and to peace over violence:

And let’s dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.

Kennedy did not have to speak on April 4, 1968, and no one would have faulted him for canceling his appearance under the sad circumstances.  Nevertheless, Kennedy seized the moment to courageously present what was much more than just a campaign speech. His brief words transformed a moment of sorrow into a time of rededication to the mission of Martin Luther King, Jr. and to the what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”

Two months later, on June 5, 1968, Kennedy himself was assassinated after winning the California presidential primaries (1).

The second act of courage that took place on this day was in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

In the novel’s opening chapter, the protagonist Winston Smith commits a forbidden act of rebellion, an act that we all take for granted. In the world of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the simple act that Winston performs could lead to punishment by death or a sentence of twenty-five years of forced labor:

The thing that he was about to do was to open a diary. . . . He dipped the pen into the ink and then faltered for just a second. A tremor had gone through his bowels. To mark the paper was the decisive act. In small clumsy letters he wrote:

April 4th, 1984.

He sat back. A sense of complete helplessness had descended upon him.. . .

Suddenly he began writing in sheer panic, only imperfectly aware of what he was setting down. His small but childish handwriting straggled up and down the page, shedding first its capital letters and finally even its full stops:

April 4th, 1984. Last night to the flicks. All war films. . . .

1984first.jpgIn the dystopian world of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the one-party government of Oceania is in a perpetual state of war and is led by the all-seeing but unseen leader called Big Brother.  By putting his pen to paper, Winston Smith, a party worker, is committing the radical and unlawful act of expressing his own individual thoughts and questioning his government.

Today’s Challenge:   Courageous Call for Communication

What are the reasons we should not take our ability to read, think, speak, and write for granted?  In the years leading up to the American Revolution, John Adams wrote an essay called “A Dissertation on the Canon and the Federal Law” (1765).  In this essay, Adams laid the legal groundwork for the Revolution, challenging his readers to remember the important role that literacy plays as the foundation of human freedoms:

Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge.  Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.

Write a Public Service Announcement (PSA) that challenges your audience to reconsider and reimagine the importance of literacy — of speaking, writing, thinking, and writing.  Motivate your audience to rededicate themselves to these skills that we so often take for granted. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  Learning to read is probably the most difficult and revolutionary thing that happens to the human brain and if you don’t believe that, watch an illiterate adult try to do it. -John Steinbeck

1-https://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Research-Aids/Ready-Reference/RFK-Speeches/Statement-on-the-Assassination-of-Martin-Luther-King.aspx

 

April 3:  Humorous Anecdote Day

On this date in 1862, Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserables was published.  The novel, which has been popularized through its numerous musical and film adaptations, took Hugo 17 years to write.  

Victor Hugo by Étienne Carjat 1876 - full.jpgWhile writing the novel, the French writer struggled with bouts of writer’s block that required him to develop a unique Ulysses contract:  he removed all his clothes and locked himself in his room with only pen and paper; he would then order his servants not to bring him his clothes until he had produced a complete chapter (1).

Once the novel was complete and published in 1862, Hugo was anxious to find out how it was selling.  One famous anecdote recounts the shortest correspondence in history. Hugo supposedly sent a telegram to his publisher which simply said, “?”  The publisher’s reply, by telegram, was just as brief: “!”

Another humorous anecdote related to laconic communications comes from the United States’ 30th president, Calvin Coolidge.  Known for his taciturn nature, Coolidge was nicknamed Silent Cal. At a White House dinner one night, Coolidge was accosted by a young female guest who said, “You must talk to me, Mr. President.  I made a $10 bet with my husband. He waged that you wouldn’t say three words, but I bet you would.” Coolidge then considered the matter for a moment and replied: “You lose” (2).

Often times anecdotes like the ones above seem almost too funny to be true, and in many cases they are.  One excellent source for exploring the veracity of such stories is the blog Quote Investigator, where Garson O’Toole doggedly searches for the truth (2).  Some stories and quotations are so old that we just cannot find out definitively whether or not they are true.  The term for these types of anecdotes is apocryphal — that is, a story that is widely circulated as true, yet is of doubtful or uncertain authenticity — from the Greek apokryphos, meaning “hidden or obscure.” (See October 11:  Apocryphal Anecdote Day).

Today’s Challenge:  LOLA:  Laugh Out Loud Anecdote

What are some examples of humorous anecdotes — short stories with a funny punchline?  Write a version of a humorous anecdote appropriate for all audiences in your own words.  It may be a true story, an apocryphal story, or a totally fictional story. Be brief, but also be funny.  (Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)

Quotation of the Day:  Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face. -Victor Hugo

1-http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2017/06/29/victor-hugos-strange-cure-writers-block-9-things-didnt-know/

2-http://quoteinvestigator.com/2016/01/10/few-words/#more-12786

 

April 2:  Writing Marathon Day

On this day in 1951, Jack Kerouac began a 21-day writing marathon, producing a 120-foot typewritten scroll that would become his best-known work, On The Road.  In a letter to his friend, Neal Cassady, Kerouac described the process and product:   “Went fast because the road is fast… wrote whole thing on strip of paper 120 foot long (tracing paper that belonged to Cannastra.)–just rolled it through typewriter and in fact no paragraphs… rolled it out on floor and it looks like a road.”  The scroll contained 125,000 words, which means that Kerouac averaged approximately 6,000 words per day. On The Road was officially published in 1957(1).  The original scroll was purchased for $2.43 million by Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, in 2002 (2).

OnTheRoad.jpgThe month of April also marks the anniversary of the first Olympic marathon, run in Athens, Greece on April 10, 1896. The origin of the word marathon comes from Greek legend. According to the story, a Greek foot-soldier Pheidippides was sent as a messenger from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over the Persian army. As he approached Athens, having run a distance of nearly 25 miles, Pheidippides collapsed and died. He did not die, however, without completing his mission; with his last gasp he uttered “niki,” the Greek word for victory.

Incidentally, the word niki is derived from the name of the Greek goddess of victory: Nike – a name that would later become the trademark of a running shoe manufacturer in Oregon.

Today’s Challenge:  26 Topics Abecedarian Marathon

What are some topics you might use in a writing marathon?  A marathon is 26 miles, so come up with at least one topic that starts with each of the 26 letters of the alphabet.  Write out your list of topics in preparation for your next writing marathon. (Common Core Writing 5 – Production and Distribution)

Quotation of the Day:  If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon.Emil Zatopek

1- https://vonquale.wordpress.com/2010/08/20/letter-jack-kerouac-to-neal-cassady/

2-http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2004/01/19/art_401525.shtml#.WSWbTvkrIdU

April 1: Invention of Punctuation Day

Today we celebrate the life of Kohmar Pehriad (544-493 BC), an ancient writer known not so much for his words as for his punctuation.  In the pre-Christian era in which Pehriad lived, written language was continuous, without any sentence or paragraph breaks. Pehriad’s reform, which today we take for granted, was the revolutionary idea of placing a single, small round dot to signal the end of a complete thought.  Pehriad’s invention did not end with the period, however. Concerned with a method for signaling pauses within a sentence, Kohmar devised the comma. For more than thirty years, Pehriad traveled throughout the ancient world — to Greece, Rome, Persia, North Africa, and Asia — to lobby for the use and acceptance of his creations.  Today, most have forgotten Kohmar Pehriad’s work, but his reward is that his name is immortalized in the anglicized names we use today for his two inventions: the comma (Kohmar) and the period (Pehriad).

It should also be noted that Pehriad’s son Apos-Trophe Pehriad followed in his father’s footsteps by creating another widely used form of punctuation.  His invention was a single mark that served double duty, either to signify possession at the end of a word or to denote the abbreviation of a word. Like his father’s inventions, the punctuation mark we know today as the apostrophe was named after Apos-Trophe Pehriad.

If some or all of the above historical information strains credulity, there is a reason.  None of it is true. What is true, however, is that on this day (April Fool’s Day) in 1956, The Saturday Review published an article by K. Jason Sitewell entitled “The Invention of the Period.”  In the article, Sitewell created a biography of a mythical inventor named Kohmar Pehriad, who, according to Sitewell, was born on April 1, 544 BC (1).

Today’s Challenge:  The Eponyms of April

It is true that many English words are derived from actual people who lived and walked the earth; it is also true that some are named for fictional persons.  These words are so numerous that they have a name: eponyms. Examples are cardigan, diesel, chauvinist, braille, boycott, atlas, and tantalize.  What are some interesting words that might make for good storytelling? Brainstorm some words.  Then, select one and write a fictional biography of a person behind the word. Connect the details from your biography to the meaning of the word in order to make it more believable. (Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)

Quotation of the Day:  The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.  -Mark Twain

March 31:  Persuasive Appeals Day

On this day in 1621, English poet Andrew Marvell was born in Hull, England. Marvell was one of the metaphysical poets, a group of 17th-century poets whose verse is characterized by its sharp wit, passionate arguments, and intellectual elaborateness.  

Marvell’s best-known poem “To His Coy Mistress” is probably the single greatest argument in verse ever written.  The poem is a dramatic monologue in which the poet addresses a young woman who is slow to respond to his amorous advances.  

To win the mistress, the poet constructs an elaborate argument, making his case for why she should “act now” and agree to love him.  The poem’s three-part structure also is an excellent example of Aristotle’s three persuasive appeals by character (ethos), by logic (logos), and by emotion (pathos).

In the poem’s first stanza, the speaker begins with ethos, establishing his character and credibility with the mistress.  Here the speaker employs hyperbole, elaborately exaggerating the amount of time he would invest in admiring and cataloging the beauty of the mistress from afar if only time allowed:

Had we but world enough and time,

This coyness, lady, were no crime.

We would sit down, and think which way

To walk, and pass our long love’s day.

Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side

Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide

Of Humber would complain. I would

Love you ten years before the flood,

And you should, if you please, refuse

Till the conversion of the Jews.

My vegetable love should grow

Vaster than empires and more slow;

An hundred years should go to praise

Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;

Two hundred to adore each breast,

But thirty thousand to the rest;

An age at least to every part,

And the last age should show your heart.

For, lady, you deserve this state,

Nor would I love at lower rate.

In the second stanza, the poet makes a sudden shift from the hypothetical to the harsh reality of the real world.  Signaling the transition with “But,” be begins to construct a case based on the logic their mortality. Devouring time will take his mistress’s beauty, and reason dictates that no one can cheat death.  

But at my back I always hear

Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;

And yonder all before us lie

Deserts of vast eternity.

Thy beauty shall no more be found;

Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound

My echoing song; then worms shall try

That long-preserved virginity,

And your quaint honour turn to dust,

And into ashes all my lust;

The grave’s a fine and private place,

But none, I think, do there embrace.

Having established his credibility and the logic of his case, the speaker concludes with a climactic appeal to emotion. Here the speaker makes his final pitch, urging the mistress to “act now,” presenting the image of mating birds of prey.  In the tradition of carpe diem – Latin for “seize the day” – the poet implores the mistress to join him; they cannot stop time, but they can make time fly by having fun.

 

Now therefore, while the youthful hue

Sits on thy skin like morning dew,

And while thy willing soul transpires

At every pore with instant fires,

Now let us sport us while we may,

And now, like amorous birds of prey,

Rather at once our time devour

Than languish in his slow-chapped power.

Let us roll all our strength and all

Our sweetness up into one ball,

And tear our pleasures with rough strife

Through the iron gates of life:

Thus, though we cannot make our sun

Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Today’s Challenge:  Gut, Head, and Heart

What is an essential item that people need to have in their possession every day in order to be successful?  Brainstorm some essential physical products that people use and need every day.  Select one of the products, and write a sales pitch, persuading your audience to purchase the product. Use the argument structure employed by Marvell in “To His Coy Mistress.” Begin by thinking about our audience and how you can establish trust with them (ethos).  Next, shift to reason, by laying out your claims and evidence about the product (logos). Finally, make the sale by appealing to the emotions of your audience and by showing them, not just telling them, why they need the product (pathos).

Use the following three essential questions to assist you in constructing your pitch:

-Ethos:  How can I get my audience to believe that I am credible, and how can I make them trust me?

-Logos:  Is my argument reasonable, and how can I organize my points and my evidence so that it is clear and logical?

-Pathos:  How can I show, not just tell my point, and how can I get my audience fired up to feel something?

(Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  Logos, ethos, and pathos appeal to the brain, gut, and heart of your audience.  While our brain tries to sort the facts, our gut tells us whether we can trust the other person, and our heart makes us want to do something about it.  -Jay Heinrichs in Thank You for Arguing