Saturday, January 23, 2010

Forbearance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Over at Chiron, Rory wrote a post on Iraqi translators and the perilous, stressful work they did for the military. And the way he wrote it reminded me of an inspiring poem. It's not a perfect fit in the first stanza, but the second stanza rocks for everybody.

Since possibly the onset of behavioral psychology, we have been trained to give words to everything. But sometimes honor or propriety demand silence. That's what the Chiron post is all about.

Hast thou named all the birds without a gun?
Loved the wood-rose, and left it on its stalk?
At rich men's tables, eaten bread and pulse?
Unarmed, faced danger with a heart of trust?

And loved so well a high behavior
In man or maid, that thou from speech refrained
Nobility more nobly to repay?
Oh, be my friend, and teach me to be thine!
The 'pulse' Emerson was eating was grains, perhaps oatmeal or corn mush. No healthy man I know eats oatmeal at any man's dinner table, rich or poor--but it's a metaphor, you know, for simple pleasures.

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