The English language properly used, uplifts and edifies. Properly spoken, it is the language of a refined people. Profanity, on the other hand, demonstrates a lack of civility, mental discipline, and maturity. Those employing it think it a sign of strength, when it is nothing of the kind. Said Paul, “Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness” (Rom. 3:13–14). If we are guilty of language which shows we are living far below the mark, is it not time to repent, and to get back to a sense of refinement, and a higher cause? Within every person’s reach is a set of scriptures; what better way to acquire a command of the English language in its propriety? One can better appreciate the beauty of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and his ability to powerfully express himself in a manner excelled by few, when we understand that the beautiful English of the King James Bible was his primer. And while we are about the business of studying that sacred work, would we not do well to follow its teachings?
Beyond the scriptures we would seek to study out of the best of books, again those with a message of uplift and hope. From early childhood, I walked with giants as I studied the lives of great men and women. There were choice works of fiction, as I thrilled to such works as Richard Llewellen’s “How Green Was My Valley,” Edna Ferber’s “So Big,” and Erich Maria Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Uplifting novels such as these played a part, I believe, in giving me a sense of compassion for, and a better understanding of, my fellow beings. Yes, we ought study out of the best books.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the value of select poetry in our lives. One cannot discount for instance, works which are clearly inspired, such as Wordsworth’s lengthy poem, “An Ode to Intimations of Immortality.” One acknowleges or credits poets such as John Donne with a spirituality born of moments in communion with God. In the following poem, for instance, when Donne speaks of the bell tolling, he is speaking of an impending death. “Nunc lento sonitu dicunt, Morieris, that is, “Now this Bell, tolling softly for another, saies to me, Thou must die” (Meditations XVII). But I have wandered. It is the lilting beauty of the language, and the morality and uplift of the poem, all of this is exceedingly good. The poem is representative of the English language at its best. It is beautiful!
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.