Rushville Republican


September 20, 2012

Barada: The pen is mightier than the sword

RUSHVILLE — One of my favorite topics is the use of language and the power words have to redefine and change our world. There's a very old saying that, "The pen is mightier than the sword," and in many respects it's true. That saying, by the way, was written by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 for a play about Cardinal Richelieu, but that's an entirely different story.

Words can be used to inspire, to provide insight, to calm, to placate, or for a hundred other purposes. If written by a true master of language, words can change the world, immortalize the author, and live on forever. I do not flatter myself that I write anything more than light extemporania. How do I know? It's very easy to be humbled by those who truly have the training and the exceptional gift for wordsmithing. Or put another way, one generally can spot truly great writing when one reads it!

Take, for example, the writings of one of the greatest men of the 20th century, Sir Winston Churchill. Here is a sample of his writing skill that comes from a radio address he gave June 18, 1940, during the darkest days of World War II when it seemed likely that the Nazis would invade England. Here's what Churchill said, "Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, the whole world, including the Unites States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age, made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will say, ÔThis was their finest hour.'"

Think about the beauty of the sentence: "If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands." The imagery created by that sentence is nothing short of masterful.

And, yet, I think, perhaps, one of the greatest masters of the English language was a man from the 19th century, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was a man of humble origins who had the gift to inspire a nation with his use of language. Take two passages from Lincoln's second inaugural address, given March 4, 1865, for example. "On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without warÑseeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came." The last sentence of that quotation is a magnificent expression of the power of language.

Even more memorable is the last paragraph of Lincoln's second inaugural address. People simply do not talk this way any more, and it's a pity. This paragraph clearly shows a master's touch. The words crafted by Lincoln say much about the man and his view of the times in which he was living. They also elevate the tragic conflict of the American Civil War to an immortal expression about a larger world view of the importance of peace and reconciliation. "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

Finally, it is worth noting that, as great as Lincoln's second inaugural address is, it was also Lincoln who gave the world, in only 10 sentences, a summary of the true meaning of the American Civil War. Books have been written about Lincoln's use of language in his address at Gettysburg on the occasion of the dedication of the national cemetery there on November 19, 1863. Author Garry Wills writes in "Lincoln at Gettysburg" that there are parallels between Lincoln's short speech and Pericles' Funeral Oration during the Peloponnesian War as reported by Thucydides some 400 years before the birth of Christ. Not bad for a self-educated man who was born in Kentucky and grew up in Indiana.

The most powerful lines come at the end of Lincoln's speech. He said: "It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before usÑthat from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotionÑthat we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vainÑthat this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedomÑand that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Both Lincoln's and Churchill's words clearly demonstrates the power of language and its ability to make the men who spoke them immortal. Thus, it seems to be true that the pen is far mightier than the sword.

That's Ñ30Ñ for this week.

Text Only
  • Young people should be involved in sports People who know me are probably aware that my favorite sport is football. As it turns out, I’m not alone, at least in terms of the number of high school kids who take part in the sport. During the 2012-13 school year, a total of 1,088,158 high school

    August 19, 2014

  • A Washing-ton of baseball trivia On our recent, although not really so recent anymore, I guess, since I’ve been writing about it for weeks on end, summer vacation, all the guys in our group -- me, brothers-in-law, nephews, sons, father-in-law -- went to a Washington Nationals vs. Co

    August 19, 2014

  • Habitual behavior Mary Ellen and I have been happy together for so long that we sometimes forget how much we annoy each other, so on the trip back home from our recent vacation, it was time catch up on our bad habits.For example, I told Mary Ellen that she is a relent

    August 19, 2014

  • Driving Highway 40 in the 40's My days in the 1940’s would today be extremely quiet and sedate. I have remembrances of having an enjoyable day with family and in reality doing little. On a Sunday afternoon, we would take off and head toward Dunreith and Highway 40, the only 4-lane

    August 19, 2014

  • Card, why do I need a stinking card? I would consider myself a typical male shopper, I buy. That is not to say that I don’t look for a good deal, but I am not going to travel from store to store in search of saving a few pennies here or there. With that in mind, I recently was in search

    August 15, 2014

  • Giving young people a second chance How many of you know what the Hoosier Youth ChalleNGe Academy is? More basically, how many of you know where it is? I had a vague notion of where it is, but I would have been hard-pressed to tell you much about what it is. The Hoosier Youth ChalleNGe

    August 12, 2014

  • Civil reunion My wife and I enjoy doing many things together. But when our entertainment preferences are not in sync, we can communicate openly with each other. That makes for a perfect union. But it may make for a lousy reunion. Let me explain.The Wolfsie family

    August 12, 2014

  • A capitol idea, sealed with a snog On our recent summer vacation to Annapolis, Maryland, we made sure to see as many memorable sights as we could in nearby Washington, D.C. This included a tour of the United States capitol building. Or maybe it’s the Capitol Building? – I suddenly rea

    August 12, 2014

  • Tuesdays with Auri It began with a simple phone call to my friend Auri, a computer geek I asked to help me with my very successful website, which right now is attracting up to three visitors a month. To have a strong online presence, you have to spend several hours a d

    August 5, 2014

  • Technology is taking over You see them everywhere you go. Electronics. Adults are using them daily and so are children of all ages.I am so glad that when I was growing up, electronics were not big yet. Of course in school we used computers to do work, but they were new. I rem

    August 5, 2014

Featured Ads
AP Video
Obama: World Is Appalled by Murder of Journalist Israel, Militants Trade Fire After Talks Fail Pres. George W. Bush Takes Ice Bucket Challenge Pierce Brosnan's Call to Join the Expendables Changes Coming to No-Fly List Raw: IDF Footage Said to Show Airstrikes Police: Ferguson More Peaceful Raw: Aftermath of Airstrike in Gaza Raw: Thousands March on Pakistani Parliament Raw: World's Oldest Man Lives in Japan Fire Crews Tame Yosemite Fire Raw: Police Weapon Drawn Near Protesters, Media Raw: Explosions in Gaza As Airstrikes Resume Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape Texas Gov. Perry: Indictment 'a Political Act' US Officials: Video Shows American's Beheading Video Shows Ferguson Cop Months Before Shooting Water Bottles Recalled for Safety Researcher Testing On-Field Concussion Scanners
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.