April 19: Monument in Verse Day

Today is the anniversary of the first shots fired in the American Revolution. In 1775 at Lexington and Concord, 700 British troops confronted 70 Minutemen under the command of Captain John Parker. The Minutemen disregarded the British order to disperse, firing ‘The Shot Heard Round the Word.’ The American Revolution had begun (1).

In her essay, “To the Victor Belongs the Language,” Rita Mae Brown traces the history of the word revolution. The word originally had no political connotations; instead, it was used to describe the revolving of planets in space. According to Brown, the political word of choice in the 14th century was “rebellion,” from Latin meaning “a renewal of war.”

In the 18th century, the age of the American and French Revolutions, the new meaning of revolution began to evolve to include the “overthrow of tyrants.” Thus, revolution came to embody ideas and actions related to political and social change. Brown ends her essay by alluding to the use of The Beatles’ 1969 hit “Revolution” to sell Nike running shoes in the 1980s. This illustrates that overuse of any word can corrupt its original meaning (2).

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote his famous poem, “Concord Hymn,” in 1837 to commemorate the first battle of the American Revolution. The poem was specifically written for the dedication of a monument to the Battle of Lexington and Concord.

Concord Hymn

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,

Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled;

Here once the embattled farmers stood;

And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;

Alike the conqueror silent sleeps,

And Time the ruined bridge has swept

Down the dark stream that seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,

We place with joy a votive stone,

That memory may their deeds redeem,

When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

O Thou who made those heroes dare

To die, and leave their children free, —

Bid Time and Nature gently spare

The shaft we raised to them and Thee.

Today’s Challenge:  The Revolution Started Here

What are some examples of specific geographical places in the world where important, revolutionary events happened?  Brainstorm some examples of important historical events or inventions.  Research one of these events or inventions, and determine the specific place where it happened.  Then, compose a brief poem that celebrates and commemorates the event or invention. Image your poem will be placed on a plaque at the specific site, and include details that would inform and intrigue visitors to the site. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day: A revolution is an idea which has found its bayonets. -Napoleon Bonaparte

1 – http://www.americanrevolution.com/BattleofLexingtonandConcord.htm

2 – Brown, Rita Mae. “To the Victor Belongs the Language.” in The Short Prose Reader (4th Edition). Gilbert H. Muller and Harvey S. Wiener editors. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 1997.

 

April 18:  Definition Day

On this day in 1864, President Abraham Lincoln gave a speech in Baltimore, Maryland.  In the midst of the Civil War, Maryland, a union state, was considering a new state constitution, which included a provision that would end slavery.  Lincoln, therefore, traveled to Baltimore to express his support for the constitutional change.

Bureau of Engraving and Printing engraved portrait of Lincoln as PresidentIn making his case, Lincoln focused on the idea of liberty and how the word was viewed and defined differently in the North and in the South (1).

The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name—liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names—liberty and tyranny.

After talking about liberty in general terms, Lincoln then shifted to a concrete, showing illustration of his definition of liberty, a definition that was consistent with the changes being considered in Maryland, but which contrasted significantly with the Confederate view of liberty.

The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails to-day among us human creatures, even in the North, and all professing to love liberty. Hence we behold the processes by which thousands are daily passing from under the yoke of bondage, hailed by some as the advance of liberty, and bewailed by others as the destruction of all liberty. Recently, as it seems, the people of Maryland have been doing something to define liberty; and thanks to them that, in what they have done, the wolf’s dictionary, has been repudiated. (2)

Today’s Challenge:  The Word Became Flesh

What are some examples of abstract nouns — such as liberty, justice, success, or failure — that you could define using concrete examples and definitions?   Brainstorm a number of abstract words.  Then, pick one and write an extended definition of the word that gives more than just a dictionary definition.  Include, like Lincoln did with liberty, some specific, showing imagery as well as some examples that show how the word is defined by different people in different ways. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Today’s Quotation:  Perseverance is a great element of success.  If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1-http://www.lincolncottage.org/the-wolf-and-the-sheep/

2-http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/address-at-a-sanitary-fair/