Saturday, September 26, 2009

Barbara Frietchie

The first night of their honeymoon, my parents stayed in the Barbara Fritchie Cabins in Frederick, Maryland.

I had not thought about that particular piece of our family history for quite some time, but I couldn't help but be reminded of it today as I read the John Greenleaf Whittier poem "Barbara Frietchie" to Josiah (and yes, I realize that Fritchie/Frietchie has two different spellings...apparently, no one agrees on how the brave old lady spelled her last name). As part of Josiah's schooling this year, we're studying various character traits; and the current one is loyalty. "Barbara Frietchie" is included in the section on loyalty in The Book of Virtues; and because I remember this poem fondly from my childhood, I was delighted to read it with Josiah today. Those emphatic lines supposedly spoken by Barbara herself and the dramatic answer by Stonewall Jackson are engraved in my mind, and the rest of the day I have had uncontrollable urges to break forth with a rousing...

"Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country's flag," she said.

Or this one...

"Who touches a hair on yon gray head
Dies like a dog! March on!" he said.

Ah, good stuff! No matter how old I get, the poems from my childhood never diminish in enjoyment and meaning for me--even if I can't remember them as well as I used to--poems like "Crossing the Bar," "Paul Revere's Ride," "The Owl and the Pussycat"--you know, all the deep, significant ones. ;)

Josiah recently memorized "The Caterpillar" by Christina Rossetti, as part of First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise. I wonder if, years from now, he'll proudly recite it for his children and fondly remember his dear mother making him learn it! :)

In honor of you, Barbara Frietchie, here's Josiah's version of the flag you're reported to have been so loyal to.
We've added a few stars since your time, Barbara (or do you prefer Barb?); did you know we have 50 states now? Josiah drew this during a homeschool day this past March at a place called New Market Battlefield. Every year people come together there to reenact one of the battles from the war that you are so familiar with. I bet you'd think it's crazy to be doing that; after all, one time through the war was enough.

Here's to you, old Barbara.
Here's to the flag.
Here's to loyalty.

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