My second year at Walla Walla College, I took Tom Little’s class in American Literature. The textbook, by Quinn, Bough, and Howe, was two and a half inches thick!
Professor Little had a habit of asking a question of a specific student rather than to the class in general. If that student could not answer, he would ask the same question to the same student the next class period, and the next.
We understood that Helen Little, also in the English department, was his second wife; his first wife had died. He had no illusions about the painfulness of death. He told us that Lizette Woodworth Reese’s sonnet, “Tears,” did not adequately express the tragedy of death, for “death is an enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26).
Oddly, he did not ask us to memorize any of the poetry we read. He only suggested, “If you like to memorize poetry, it would be worth your time to learn Whittier’s “The Eternal Goodness.” The poem was not even in our textbook! The stanzas that have shaped my theology say:
Yet, in the maddening maze of things,
And tossed by storm and flood,
To one fixed trust my spirit clings;
I know that God is good!
I know not where His islands lift
Their fronded palms in air;
I only know I cannot drift
Beyond His love and care.