“Speak Gently” by David Bates is a simple poem in which the poet asks his readers to speak in a gentle way. Each stanza of the poem tells us how and why we should speak gently with others.
The first stanza tells us to rule over people by love and not by fear. Obedience of people should be acquired through love and not fear. Through love, it can last longer. Moreover, harsh words should not destroy the good things that we do in life.
The second stanza of “Speak Gently” tells us to speak in a gentle and kind voice which can bind hearts, and friendship can last longer that way.
The third stanza tells us to be kind to the little child. If we speak gently to them, we will surely gain their affection. The child must be taught the ways of the world with love and gentle care.
In the following stanzas, David Bates advises his readers to ‘speak gently’ to the young as they need a life full of gentle care. Moreover, the poet tells his reader to speak in a polite manner to the old men who are already sad and tired. We should speak to those old people with care as they only have a brief time left in this world.
The poet also tells his readers to speak gently to the poor. The poor already get to hear harsh words and unkindness, so they should never be hurt or spoken unkindly. The poet tells us to speak gently to the ones who have made several mistakes in their lives. Bates tells us that through good words, only we can win them back.
In the final stanza of the poem, David Bates mentions Christ, who had given up his life to mend man’s stubborn will. When all the elements of earth were in battle against each other, He told them to be at peace.
So the poet conveys a message through the poem that speaking gently might be a little thing when dropped in the heart’s deep well, but the goodness and joy it brings will last more than an eternity.
erring: people who have made mistakes
toiled in vain: work without fruitful results
A Few Questions for Self-Study:
1. Why is it far better to rule by love?
It is far better to acquire someone’s obedience through love because obedience through love lasts longer than obedience acquired through fear.
2. Bring out the refrain in the poem.
A refrain is a phrase or verse that is repeated a number of times, usually at the end of the stanza in the poem. “Speak gently” is the refrain in the poem, although we find it at the beginning of each stanza.
Updated by Anjali Roongta on 23rd April 2023
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