Louis Forsdale: Our Teacher, Our Friend


Louis Forsdale


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

taller feet.


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

Judgment Break

Excellent, and Fair -


Be it's Mattress

straight -

Be it's Pillow

round -

Let no Sunrise '

Yellow noise

Interrupt this

Ground -



with admiration,

martha nell smith”




Margaret DeAngelis fingal@paonline.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 --

--Emily Dickinson



I weep for my Immortal friend whom I have never seen.”




Perry L. Nelson pnelson@pop.goodnet.com:


“Dear Lynn,


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 -


RIP, Louis.”


On Emweb:

“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 tanter@tarleton.edu:


“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 ksel4052@postoffice.uri.edu:


“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 freemamh@email.lavc.cc.ca.us:

“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 lcb@crcom.net:

“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

grieving family.

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 nanajo@top.monad.net:


“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 pridgen@texas.net:

“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 feinf@umich.edu:


“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 hbeng094@csun.edu:

“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 bmkelly@toptenlinks.com:


“Louis was a gentleman and a scholar -- "gladly wolde he lerne, and

gladly teche"

(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,

Barbara Kelly”





Bill Arnold barnold@pb.seflin.org:


“Miss Emily expressed it "best" in May, 1886, probably her last

written and "cryptic" message, Letter 1046:


Little Cousins,


Called back,




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:


High Flight


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 bonniep@bigfoot.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 stardust@bigwig.net:


“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 fluttrby@gladstone.uoregon.edu:


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.)




Cynthia_Hallen clh8@email.byu.edu:


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 ckirk@stny.lrun.com:

“Dear Lynn,

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

no death,

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 poetrybug@juno.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"

Industrious until-


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.”




Kay TBBALTZ@aol.com:


“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 ewhayne@talweb.com:


“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:


> Louis,


> I had a theory several years ago that ED developed Schizophrenia.

> Any comments?


> Mike


Developed or invented?”



Ahmed Badda ahmed@wadernet.wadern.net.ma:


“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

the poet.


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

address them.


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 schloss@mail.com:


“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 anneh@imap2.asu.edu:


“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 agaylard@fs2.gordontafe.edu.au:


“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 lvetter@uncc.edu