I’ve been sorting through some Dropbox files and decided to share some of these old verses with you. I feel this verse has relevance for all time. However, I’ve used a bit of poetic license and split his longer lines into the style we’re more familiar with today. A lot easier reading, methinks.
by Canadian poet Archibald Lampman (1861 – 1899)
'Tis well with words,
oh masters, ye have sought,
to turn men's eyes, yearning
to the great and true,
yet first take heed to what
your own hands do.
By deeds, not words
the souls of men are taught;
good lives alone are fruitful;
they are caught
into the fountain of all life
where-through men's souls that drink
or made new.
Like drops of heavenly elixir
with the clear essence
of eternal youth;
even one little deed
of weak untruth
is like a drop
of quenchless venom cast.
A liquid thread
into life's feeding stream,
with its crystal gleam,
bearing the seed of death
and woe at last.
We have — on once had — an expression in English to the effect of “He already had his gloves off.” Which means that as he approached the other person, he was already expecting this was going to turn into a fight and he’d be prepared by having his gloves off, ready to throw the first punch at any sign of aggression.
My mind goes back to a mother-daughter situation of long ago, neighbours to us, who almost typified this expression. I told my own daughter, “Those two seem to be functioning on a NO level.”
That is, the mother, a real go-getter, would order her more laid-back daughter to do some task. However, Her tone of voice indicated that she was anticipating resistance. The daughter obligingly resisted. This sounded something like: “Jane! Clean up your room once.”
Jane, reply dragged out and unwilling, “I’ll do it later. I have something else I wanna do right now.” “I said, Clean up your room. This means right now!” “Do I have to, right this minute. Can’t it wait until…?”
“No it can’t! Now get busy.”
I’m not sure how they fell into this type of interaction, but by now it seemed like a standard between them. Had Jane always been so unwilling? Or was she simply responding to the cue given by her mom? Maybe the mom’s tone was warranted. But it was clear she expected a “No” of some sort and was prepared to argue the point.
The tones weren’t all that bad and the daughter did do what she was told. In a worst case scenario a listener will get what sounds like a whiny daughter responding to a whiny mom.
This poem, written in the old long-winded style by Canadian poet Archibald Lampman, refers to people in general, but I think it has a good message:
Blind multitudes that jar confusedly At strife, earth’s children, will ye never rest From toils made hateful here, and dawns distressed With ravelling self-engendered misery?
And will ye never know, till sleep shall see Your graves, how dreadful and how dark indeed Are pride, self-will, and blind-voiced anger, greed, And malice with its subtle cruelty?
How beautiful is gentleness, whose face Like April sunshine, or the summer rain, Swells everywhere the buds of generous thought? So easy, and so sweet it is; its grace Smooths out so soon the tangled knots of pain. Can ye not learn it? Will ye not be taught?
Think not, because thine inmost heart means well,
thou hast the freedom of rude speech:
are like the voices of returning birds
filling the soul
with summer, or a bell
that calls the weary and the sick to prayer.
Even as thy thought,
so let thy speech be fair.
Friend, though thy soul should burn thee, yet be still
Thoughts were not meant for strife, nor tongues for swords,
He that sees clear is gentlest of his words,
And that’s not truth that hath the heart to kill.
The whole world’s thought shall not one truth fulfill.
Dull in our age, and passionate in youth,
No mind of man hath found the perfect truth,
Nor shalt thou find it; therefore, friend, be still.
Watch and be still, nor hearken to the fool,
The babbler of consistency and rule:
Wisest is he, who, never quite secure,
Changes his thoughts for better day by day:
To-morrow some new light will shine, be sure,
And thou shalt see thy thought another way.
I came across this poem and thought being STILL and being OPEN to new light, a better understanding of the situation, are wonderful qualities. Seems we need this wisdom in our troubled times.