Expostulation and Reply
"Although I am a man of God
And cherish song and melody
I care not for this book of hymns
In worship on the Sabbath day
A patron sitting next to me
Thus issued his complaint of hymns
With words like "thou" and "thee."
"It is the tongue of buried men!
Today," he said, "we're far advanced
From such unnecessary words!"
And tossed his hand askance----
"Not so," I said, "It is the tongue
Of people with a gentler sense:
When language was an object of
Our utmost reverence:
Remember when, to Noble men,
The serf cried 'You!' upon his knee;
How yet he pray'd a holy 'Thou'
Whispered in sanctity;
Or, when the poet saw the land,
Instead of gather it together
Cried out 'Thou!' and drew it in
For a more intimate endeavour;
And Smith, when with the vulgar tongue
He spun the wisdom 'Ich und Du'
From Buber's mind, wrote 'I and Thou!'
For intimacy, too---
The death of 'Thou' may be a matter
Owed to growth of standard
But I attest that there are things
Our intellect has slandered.
We men, whose minds are less inclined
To put our numbers in suspension
Measure every utterance
To intellectual discretion,
And murder to dissect the tongue
Which had been lovely and ornate
When Chaucer dubbed it capable
To render and create---
Did not the Lord instruct His men
To build with stones untouched by steel?
Thus we have made bricks of our words,
And strayed from God's ideal.
So challenge not the book of Hymns
That sings with love obediently
Much rather than deny itself
Such words as 'thou' and 'thee.'"