Louis Forsdale: Our Teacher, Our Friend
March 8, 1922 - Sept. 22, 1999
An online community joins together to remember our dear friend, Louis.
Tim Morris tmorris@UTARLG.UTA.EDU:
“Louis Forsdale died yesterday. Of Santa Fe, NM
and retired from Columbia, where he taught
communication and education for 40 years,
he was a wonderful part of the community on
this list since he joined us in February of 1998.
I enclose a post from his daughter Lynn below.
I know that I speak for all of us in conveying our
deepest sympathies to her;
anyone with messages for Lynn
may write to the list or to her directly.”
Martha Nell Smith Martha_Nell_Smith@umail.umd.edu:
“dear lynn (& ED Comrades)--i was so startled and so saddened by this news that
i find words are robbed from me. louis was a wonderful contributor to this
list and to the other ED lists. he was compassionate, considerate,
conscientious. i learned so much from him, and just a couple of months ago we
added him to the Advisory Board of the Dickinson Electronic Archives. if i
could somehow be even a shadow of the powerful educator he was and remained to
the end of his days here with us on earth, i shall consider myself one with
at the EDIS Conference in Amherst i read a poem in memory of Margaret Dickie,
another great educator. i know she would not mind and would in fact be honored
to have it offered again, for Louis:
Ample make this Bed.
Make this Bed
with Awe -
In it, wait till
Excellent, and Fair -
Be it's Mattress
Be it's Pillow
Let no Sunrise '
martha nell smith”
Margaret DeAngelis email@example.com:
“At 01:32 PM 09/23/1999 -0500, you wrote:
>Louis Forsdale died yesterday.
Bereavement in their death to feel
Whom We have never seen --
A Vital Kinsmanship import
Our Soul and theirs -- between --
For Stranger -- Strangers do not mourn --
There be Immortal friends
Whom Death see first --'tis news of this
That paralyze Ourselves --
Who, vital only to Our Thought --
Such Presence bear away
In dying, --'tis as if Our Souls
Absconded -- suddenly --
I weep for my Immortal friend whom I have never seen.”
Perry L. Nelson firstname.lastname@example.org:
I received word of your father's passing via Tim Morris' DICKNSON listserv.
Please accept my heartfelt condolences.
It was obvious to all in this strange cyberworld who 'knew' Louis - via
Emweb, DICKNSON, and EmMails - that he was a very special man. He was
clearly an intellect, but more importantly he was clearly a caring and
loving intellect of great depth. All of us have lost a friend, but be
assured that no one in this little 'Emily-world' who has crossed Louis' path
will ever forget him.
I had the following Dickinson poem read at my father's funeral nearly 20
years ago, and it still speaks to me. I send it in hopes that it may
comfort you somewhat.
To die -takes just a little while -
They say it doesn't hurt -
It's only fainter - by degrees -
And then - it's out of sight -
A darker Ribbon - for a Day -
A crape upon the Hat -
And then the pretty sunshine comes -
And helps us to forget -
The absent - mystic - creature -
That but for love of us -
Had gone to sleep - that soundest time -
Without the weariness -
“I want to add my voice to those who mourn the loss of Louis Forsdale. Louis
was truly a most extraordinary man -- though few of us on listservs had ever
met him directly, his kindness, intelligence, wit, scholarship, and even his
occasional irrascibility came through as if he might have been sitting
opposite each of us in our living rooms. I will miss him, as I will miss
the humaness of his always well-stated comments.
Louis may be gone, but he will remain always a part of 'here.'
Some years ago I wrote a short poem in memory of a wonderful uncle who had
passed away after living a long life which he filled to the brim with
kindness, love, and wisdom... I think perhaps much like Louis has done.
All Living wonder how it feels to die,
To cross the bar, to bid farewell to things
Of Life and Love, to gasp that final sigh
Appropriate to Commoners - and Kings.
Your journey - ended now - opines that life
Be filled with warmth, not chill, that Destiny
Embraces Soul in passage, free of strife,
To final resting place: Eternity.
What worth remains for those whose scant reward
Is Death? You've offered us your Psalm, and taught
That breath refines the mind, and damn the sword
That slays it! Life, you've shown, is not for naught
When Love of others fills both heart and day.
May Peace embark - with you - from Heaven's Quay.
Marcy Tanter email@example.com:
“This can't be true. I am so shocked and so sad. Louis was such a great
guy--I will miss him so much. Funny how this little community is so
anonymous yet also so intimate. My heart goes out to Lynn and Lou's family
and I feel such a loss for us.”
Kris Selander firstname.lastname@example.org:
“I come to you today with some sad news. Louis Forsdale, a long time
contributor to EmMail, has passed away. This list has been blessed to have
known him, and many, myself included, have learned much from him. His
constant kindhearted attitude was a model for us all. I will miss him
dearly. Louis was fond of addressing this and other lists as "Friends:" - I
shall always remember him as just that - my friend.”
Pass to thy Rendezvous of Light,
Pangless except for us --
Who slowly ford the Mystery
Which thou hast leaped across.
Margaret H. Freeman email@example.com:
“Like the other Dickinsonians on the listservs he participated in, I was
deeply saddened to learn of Louis's death. His contributions to our
discussions were always reasoned, fair, articulate, generous, and sensitive.
Although I never met him personally, I came to know and to trust him
absolutely for his knowledge, perceptivity, tact, and insight. When I
reached out to him for feedback on a particularly sensitive issue, he not
only responded, but helped in immeasurable ways. He was one of those few
that I thought immortal, that he'd always be there when I needed to turn to
him. I hope that all of us who have benefited from his presence among us
will have impressed on our spirits some of his spirit so that we may grow
more like him. The one Dickinson poem that springs to mind as I think of his
wisdom and what he meant to me is Johnson number 1393:
Lay this Laurel on the One
Too intrinsic for Renown -
Laurel - veil your deathless tree -
Him you chasten, that is He!
Please know that I, for one, am thinking of Louis's family at this sad time,
and offer my sincere condolences for the loss of someone they treasured who
must have been as, if not more, wonderful in person as he was in cyberspace.”
Lucy Brandt firstname.lastname@example.org:
“Although I am new to EmWeb, I learned early and well how wonderful a
person Louis Forsdale was. I would have loved to know him better, and
like everyone, I feel an enormous sense of loss. My wishes are with his
This is for Louis:
Go thy great way!
The stars thou meetst
Are even as Thyself -
For what are Stars but Asterisks
To point a human Life?
Joann Duncanson email@example.com:
“To Lynn I would like to say this:
Louis was like a sunrise to so many of us - there was warmth, color, and
a wide arc of interest and enthusiasm which he shared with us so well.
I see him, then, as a warm, shining sunrise - shining until the day the
Dominie in Gray/Put gently up the evening Bars - /And led the flock away
I'll tell you how the Sun rose -
A Ribbon at a time =
The Steeples swam in Amethyst -
The news, like Squirrels, ran -
The Hills untied their Bonnets =
The Bobolinks - begun -
Then I said softly to myself -
"That must have been the Sun"!
But how he set - I know not -
There seemed a purple stile
That little Yellow boys and girls
Were climbing all the while -
Till when they reached the other side,
A Dominie in Gray -
Put gently up the evening Bars -
And led the flock away -
What a wonderful father - and teacher - he must have been. How
fortunate we are that he took the time to shine on emweb, even for as
long as he did. This is a sad day for us all. Thank you, Louis.”
Nancy Pridgen firstname.lastname@example.org:
“I am, as I know you all are, stunned and in shock over the loss of
Louis. He gave so much to the Dickinson lists, providing us with so
many web links that we would never have had the time to find on our
own. He had a way of involving people in positive discussion about the
many Dickinson poems. His business, like ED's, was "to think." We
fellow Dickinson readers reaped the benefits of his insights, expressed
in "Socratic" questions that gave our ED studies direction.
I feel really fortunate that Bill and I stopped to meet him last summer
in Santa Fe. We enjoyed a pleasant afternoon's visit and had hoped to
see him again this summer. Though that cannot be, I'm so glad we have
a wonderful memory.
Louis will be missed. His absence will leave a gap that can never be
filled. He was an original, a one of a kind. I am so thankful that we
had him here with us for the last two years.”
Fred Feinberg email@example.com:
“I can't add much to the unanimous and wholly deserved
chorus of praise for Louis, a wonderful person whom we,
though most having never 'met' him, feel we nonetheless
knew well and respected as a person, thinker and friend.
He will be missed, and not forgotten.
Although the following poem has been presented in many
venues, it's one that never fails to stun me with the beauty
of its language, and its recognition of the solemnity of passing.”
Ample make this bed.
Make this bed with awe;
In it wait till judgment break
Excellent and fair.
Be its mattress straight,
Be its pillow round;
Let no sunrise' yellow noise
Interrupt this ground.
michael gregory firstname.lastname@example.org:
“I am in complete shock and grief. I am beyond
words at this time. I felt very close to Louis and
will miss him greatly. My condolences to his family.”
Paul Reuben Its4pr@aol.com:
“>I am in complete shock and grief. I am beyond words at this time. I felt
>very close to Louis and will miss him greatly. My condolences to his
My sentiments too! I found Louis to be a voice of understanding and
compassion; he will be sorely missed.”
John H. Flannigan Kells607@aol.com:
“My condolences to Louis Forsdale's family and close
friends, of which there were many on the emweb. I will
miss his probing readings, good-natured manner, and
diligent service to all lovers of Dickinson's work. I
offer #228 as a remembrance:”
Blazing in Gold and quenching in Purple
Leaping Like Leopards to the Sky
Then at the feet of the old Horizon
Laying her spotted Face to die
Stooping as low as the Otter's Window
Touching the Roof and tinting the Barn
Kissing her Bonnet to the Meadow
And the Juggler of Day is gone
Barbara Kelly email@example.com:
“Louis was a gentleman and a scholar -- "gladly wolde he lerne, and
(Canterbury Tales, Prologue, line 310)
For Louis --
"Our hearts have flown to you before -- our breaking voices follow"
(Emily Dickinson, letter to Elizabeth Holland, Oct. 1881, Letters 3:
And for his daughter Lynn and family with condolences --
"One who only said 'I am sorry' helped me the most when father ceased --
it was too soon for language" (Emily Dickinson, letter to Elizabeth
Holland, Oct. 1881, Letters 3: 712-13).
Stunned and saddened,
Bill Arnold firstname.lastname@example.org:
“Miss Emily expressed it "best" in May, 1886, probably her last
written and "cryptic" message, Letter 1046:
Inasmuch as I am a firm believer, along with Miss Emily, in the
"immortality of the soul," it is at times like this that we can find
solace in "soaring words" of a compatriot flier who's singular poem might
allieviate the earthly burden on his family. On making this lonely,
final "flight," I offer Dickinsonians:
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds--and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of--wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
Where never lark, nor even eagle flew--
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high, untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
--John Gillespie Magee, 1941”
Meredith Sue Willis MSueWillis@aol.com:
“What a loss! Could someone give more details here
on Emweb for those of us who aren't on the other lists?
He was a retired professor from Teachers College, was
he not? What a graceful peacemaker he was in these
Bonnie Poon email@example.com:
“I only found out today that Louis had
passed away. I was at work and
checking my email when I noticed a
string of emails saying "remembering
Louis" - and the content of those emails
shocked and saddened me immensely.
I agree with Meredith Sue that he was
a graceful peacemaker, and also a
wise and humble teacher. I'm going to
miss Louis a _lot_. My prayers and
condolences go to the Forsdales –
know that Louis was much admired and
loved by all of us.”
Maggie Mountford firstname.lastname@example.org:
“I can scarcely add much to all that has been said already on this forum.
Louis' comments, his perceptive insights, his considered way of putting
his thoughts across, his wisdom, and his appreciation of poetry, will be
very much missed. My heartfelt condolences to his family.”
"No passenger was known to flee -
That lodged a night in memory -
That wily - subterranean Inn
Contrives that none go out again - "
Elizabeth Aracic email@example.com:
We grow accustomed to the Dark -
When Light is put away -
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Good bye -
A Moment - We uncertain step
For newness of the night -
Then - fit our Vision to the Dark -
And meet the Road - erect -
And so of larger - Darknesses -
Those Evenings of the Brain -
When not a Moon disclose a sign -
Or Star - come out - within -
The Bravest - grope a little -
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead -
But as they learn to see -
Either the Darkness alters -
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight -
And Life steps almost straight.
Death sets a Thing significant
The Eye had hurried by
Except a perished Creature
Entreat us tenderly
To ponder little workmanships
In Crayon - or in wool -
With "This was last Her fingers did" -
Industrious until -
The Thimble weighed too heavy -
The stiches stopped - themselves -
And then 'twas put among the Dust
Opon the Closet shelves -
A Book I have - a friend gave -
Whose Pencil - here and there -
Had notched the place that please Him -
At Rest - His fingers are -
Now - when I read - I read not -
For interrupting Tears -
Obliterate the Etchings
Too Costly for Repairs –
(To read Louis’s remembrance of his own mother’s passing and how
this poem came alive for him scroll down to his post on this page.)
ED 1616 (J)
Who abdicated Ambush
And went the way of Dusk,
And now against his subtle Name
There stands an Asterisk
As confident of him as we --
Impregnable we are --
The whole of Immortality
Secreted in a Star.
Connie Kirk firstname.lastname@example.org:
I have a message from your father saved in one of my computer file folders.
It was sent to this discussion list last Saturday (his second post of the
day, I believe). I saved it because it contained the user name and password
of the Dickinson electronic archive. During the Emily Dickinson International
Society Conference in August in MA, I had written down this information to
use once I got home, but somehow I had written it down wrong and was having
no luck getting into those pages.
I knew there were any number of people from the list I could contact and get
the information from; I just hadn't done it yet. Then I saw your father's kind post
(a response to Lucy Brandt, I think) and saved it. I also jotted down the
information in the little notebook I keep by my computer.
So while I did not have the opportunity to meet your dad, or even 'know' him too
long via this electronic medium that he also (apparently) enjoyed, I have received
this small gift from him, this "key" to further study of ED, for which I am grateful.
In case you're not aware of it, our discussion posts are archived at a website
where you can read them, should you find comfort in doing so. The URL is:
I offer this ED letter-poem (HS #110), which Emily wrote to her sister-in-law,
Susan, on the death of Susan's sister, Harriet Cutler on March 16, 1865:”
Dear Sue -
Unable are the
Loved - to die -
For Love is immortality -
Nay - it is Deity -
Janet Parker TENAJ@webtv.net:
They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there really is
And if ever there was it led forward life,
and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas'd the moment life appear'd.
All goes onward and outward, nothing
And to die is different from what anyone
supposed, and luckier.
~ Walt Whitman ~ FROM Song of Myself
Debbie A Smith email@example.com:
“In a recent post I suggested to Louis that Amazon.com might refund his
money for a book he had purchased. In his reply, full of grace and
gentleness, he said he had already marked the pages and wanted to keep it
in his Dickinson library. I imagine his entire library is just like
that--full of markings that were significant to him. It reminded me of
this poem that comforts me now on the occasion of his death.
Death sets a Thing significant
The Eye had hurried by
Except a perished Creature
Entreat us tenderly
To ponder little Workmanships
In Crayon, or in Wool,
With "This was last Her fingers did"
The Thimble weighed too heavy-
The stitches stopped-themselves-
And then 'twas put among the Dust
Upon the Closet shelves-
A Book I have--a friend gave-
Whose Pencil-here and there-
Had notched the place that pleased Him-
At Rest-His fingers are-
Now-when I read-I read not-
For interrupting Tears-
Obliterate the Etchings
Too Costly for Repairs.
I will always remember Louis for his curiosity and willingness to find
the answers and to ask the questions. He had an uncommon beauty that he
shared with all.”
“I truly felt like he was sitting across the table from
me in his discussions on emweb. He was wonderful!
I shall miss reading his posts.”
Jed Deppman humdeppm@ACS.EKU.EDU:
“I am greatly saddened by this news, for Louis was the wisest and most generous
man I've never met. Our understanding of ED has benefited more from his
intelligent humility than from any number of books and articles. I think Poem
860 captures something of his spirit:
Absence disembodies -- so does Death
Hiding individuals from the Earth
Superstition helps, as well as love --
Tenderness decreases as we prove --
Louis is absent and disembodied now, but differently than before.
May his tenderness remain and increase.”
“My hearfelt condolences. Louis's intelligent comments
always had my particular attention and interest. Such a loss.”
Earl Whayne firstname.lastname@example.org:
“So sad to hear of the passing of Louis F. A man with delightful
sense of humor. I keep the more interesting mail and browsed back
looking for his name. The following is a short exchange.
So wrote Mike:
> I had a theory several years ago that ED developed Schizophrenia.
> Any comments?
Developed or invented?”
Ahmed Badda email@example.com:
“Louis was a symbol of kindness and helpfulness. He was the first person to
answer my questions posted on Emweb. He did not only reply to my questions.
He encouraged me to post on Emweb in spite of my very little knowledge about
He wrote to me privately to explain me a lot of things about Emily Dickinson
and literature in general. During the last few months his posts to me were
full of insights and wisdom. I have learned a lot of information from him.
And the most important is that his posts either to Emweb or to me taught me
how important it is to be kind to others and to choose the right words to
Knowing Louis has marked my life. I will never forget him.
My condolences to all Dickinson lists members and to Louis's family.”
Christopher Walker firstname.lastname@example.org:
“Louis was surely the most generous, patient and considerate of
correspondents. He had that rarest of gifts - the ability to get to the
heart of a matter whilst not disturbing or damaging it in any way or
attempting to take possession of it. He was a genuine sharer and a message
from him was always welcome, whatever its subject. Our time together on
Dicknson, Emweb and EmMails was so much warmer and richer for all his shrewd
questions (often phrased in deceptively simple ways!), his observations and
his anecdotes. We shall miss him more than we know.
We learn in the Retreating
How vast an one
Was recently among us -
A perished Sun
Endear in the departure
How doubly more
Than all the Golden presence
It was - before -
[Emily Dickinson - J1083]
Lynn, in saying goodbye to a kind and valued friend whom it was my good
fortune to know through these mailing lists and my misfortune never to meet,
my thoughts are very much with you and with others of Louis' family at this
Nancy Ainsworth Nancyapoet@aol.com:
“I found access to emweb at my local library here on Cape Cod and was
stunned to read of Louis' passing. I have brought my newly bought and much
anticipated volumes of the Franklin edition which had been suggested by
Louis first,I believe, so his kindness in taking the time to advise a new student
what must have been repetitive to everyone else impressed me immediately.
I had been so looking forward to his continuing commentaries as I work my
way through--his careful work, humor, and diplomatic style will be missed. I
am surprised at the shock and amount of grief I feel over someone of such short
acquaintance for me. His value to my life has been greater than I can express
just now, but condolences to his family and other emwebbers--he is a
permanent part of me.”
Anne Hall email@example.com:
“It was with deep regret that I learned yesterday of the passing of Louis
Forsdale. Louis was one of the main reasons that I have remained on the Emily
Dickinson list serves. I shall miss his contributions. And although I feel
sorrow for my own ill-sense of loss, I know that Louis had completed his
sojourn here and that he has gone to a land which White Eagle and other
mystics tell us is a land of Light, of spirituality and mentation rather than
corporality. According to the mystics, it is a land of sweetness, of serene
Beauty and of a sweet and refreshing nectar neither brewed nor known in this
phase of being. Louis will find that he is free of the bodily limitations
which plagued him here in his later years. I know that Louis still exists
and, more than that that he is near to us all. It is just that we are not
able to experience him with our five senses. I have a hunch, though, that he
will be looking over our shoulders from time to time as we study Emily
Dickinson. And I am just as certain that Emily was one of the ones waiting
to meet and to greet Louis Forsdale as he arrived in that next phase.
While looking for a fitting tribute (my poor words would hardly be good
enough), I found this selection from John Donne. It expresses what I wish to
say. Thus, I offer it for Louis.”
Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so,
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor death, not yet canst thou kill me.
For rest and sleep, which but thy picture be,
Much pleasure, then from thee much more must flow,
And sooner our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones and soul's delivery . . .
One short sleep past we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.
[Holy Sonnets (1609-1917, II, 10]
Andrew Gaylard firstname.lastname@example.org:
“I am deeply saddened to hear of Louis' death. The light he shone on
the Emily Dickinson lists was soft and clear. My thoughts go out to
Lynn and to Louis' other loved ones, for whom the loss is so great.
Those of us who never met him in person will miss him in our own way,
and that loss is multiplied by the hundreds who will feel it."
Margaret DeAngelis http://www.silkentent.com:
“A few dozen posts ago someone named her choice of the best thing that ever
happened to Emweb. With all due respect to that person and her choice, and
to those estimable persons who are not about to be named, I'd like to say
that I think the best thing that ever happened to Emweb was Louis Forsdale,
and I miss him very much."
Created 9/24/99 by Kris Selander
Maintained by Lara Vetter email@example.com