On Learning Ancient Languages


Oh how many warring tongues
Do dance within my head!
I heard a shout from foreign lungs,
Yet from my mouth it sped.

Oh the Latin! Oh the Greek!
They take that English man;
They bind him, chains upon his feet,
And drown his cries ’neath sand!

What now am I, both my feet
Upon two different shores?
A ground where rivals fierce compete
To win me for their world.

Can I sing now as before,
In pure and simple words,
And not in strange and varied songs,
But simple songs like birds?

The throstle knows a single tune,
And still his music’s hailed.
One tongue suits the mournful loon
As does the nightingale.

Many words shall never court
The favor of the Lord.
So as a child You call me forth
To sing in simple words.


Poem taken from the 2021 edition of Artos, the literary journal of Bethlehem College & Seminary students.