PlainJane

October 30, 2006

Ode to Autumn

Filed under: Uncategorized — oneplainjane @ 5:30 pm

“Autumn,” poem by Helen Keller, 27 October 1893.
(Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers)

This poem was written by thirteen-year-old Helen Keller (1880-1968) who, only six years before, was “a wild little creature” who lived in the chilling emptiness and confusion of having been deaf and blind since she was nineteen months old. In early 1887, Keller’s father brought her to the attention of Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922), the inventor of the telephone and a teacher and advocate of the deaf. Bell recommended Keller to the Perkins Institute, stating that she was certainly capable of being taught. There she began a lifelong association with teacher Annie Sullivan (1866-1936), who, in less than three weeks, used finger spelling to communicate with Keller by manually pressing the alphabet onto the child’s palm. This enabled Keller to make her famous breakthrough in understanding–realizing the simple but profound notion that people and things had names. Keller called this awakening her “soul’s birthday,” and attributed its occurrence to Bell, whom she later described as “the door through which I should pass from darkness into light.”

Significantly, it was also Bell who encouraged Keller to attend a regular school, thus permitting her eventually to graduate cum laude from Radcliffe College in 1904. All her life she remained a grateful, close friend of Bell, visiting his home and family, and in this case, dedicating this intensely descriptive poem to her kind and loving mentor. Bell also had taken early note of Keller’s “marvelous knowledge of language” and believed she had a future in literature. Many called Keller’s achievements a miracle, but Bell, ever the scientist, insisted that Sullivan’s success with the child was not supernatural but rather a brilliantly successful experiment.

Leonard C. Bruno

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1 Comment »

  1. Thanks for dropping by (and leaving a comment- I’m a whore for comments!). Have fun with your new blog- I’ll check back soon!

    Comment by DT — November 15, 2006 @ 5:36 pm


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