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©Jane Cassidy

The extensive correspondence our forefathers left behind them,
The letters and the diaries of the women of the past
Preserve for us the feeling of their time, and when we find them
Yield to us a treasure trove of data unsurpassed.

The chroniclers of history always had at their disposal
A steady stream of letters from the hand-held fountain pen
Of Washington or Jefferson, or Roosevelt. Some were quite dull,
But many have enlivened what we know of life back then.

And though the greats of history have left a trail of paper
Through which we trace their politics and love-lives secondhand,
No less did ordinary men and women, by a taper
Or betty-lamp at eventide, take pen and ink in hand.

They filled the page from edge to edge and left no empty spaces
For paper wasn't cheap back then, and postage was quite dear,
And yet they wrote with eloquence great news and commonplaces
And sent their letters off to friends and relatives not near.

Today we have word processors replacing ink and pen,
And letter writing's faster; we can write a letter now
In just ten minutes which would take and hour or more back then,
And yet it seems that most of us have quite forgotten how.
We say that we're too busy, that we haven't got the time
To even call, much less sit down and write. It's just too hard.
But really, we've been meaning to, we'll get to it sometime,
And meanwhile say hello in a pre-printed Christmas card.

The chroniclers of history in the century that's coming
Will find their task quite difficult and data hard to find
For when they look for letters old, there will be none forthcoming,
To illuminate our lives for them and let them know our mind.

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