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Each in his own Tongue -- William Herbert Carruth

(Poem #1197) Each in his own Tongue
 A fire-mist and a planet,
     A crystal and a cell,
 A jelly-fish and a saurian,
     And caves where the cave-men dwell;
 Then a sense of law and beauty
     And a face turned from the clod, --
 Some call it Evolution,
     And others call it God.

 A haze on the far horizon,
     The infinite, tender sky,
 The ripe, rich tint of the cornfields,
     And the wild geese sailing high;
 And all over upland and lowland
     The charm of the golden-rod, --
 Some of us call it Autumn,
     And others call it God.

 Like tides on a crescent sea-beach,
     When the moon is new and thin,
 Into our hearts high yearnings
     Come welling and surging in:
 Come from the mystic ocean,
     Whose rim no foot has trod, --
 Some of us call it Longing,
     And others call it God.

 A picket frozen on duty,
     A mother starved for her brood,
 Socrates drinking the hemlock,
     And Jesus on the rood;
 And millions who, humble and nameless,
     The straight, hard pathway plod, --
 Some call it Consecration,
     And others call it God.
-- William Herbert Carruth

 saurian: dinosaur.
 rood: cross.
 fire-mist: I have no idea, and neither do any of the dictionaries I
            checked. Lovely word, though :)

Today's poem is a surprisingly gentle look at the dichotomy between
religious and 'natural' explanations of the universe. Unlike most such poems
I've read, Carruth seems genuinely to be saying that both interpretations
are valid; or, rather, that both sides are appreciating the same underlying
thing, just under different names.

This differs sharply from, say, Saxe's blind men, who "all were in the
wrong" [Poem #1179], or Catherine Faber's "Humans wrote the Bible, God wrote
the sky" [Poem #803, strongly reminiscent of today's], where there's a
definite "your way is not the right way" undertone. Carruth chooses,
instead, to explore the numinous via a series of images, the implication
being that this is the important part, and what you call it essentially a

Of course, I make no claim that this is the One True Reading of the poem, or
even necessarily a correct one - Carruth might just as well be saying people
who speak of God are merely seeking to lump everything under one
explanation, or, conversely, that people who do *not* speak of God see the
facets but miss the jewel; however, if either of these was his intent he has
done an admirable job of being fair to the other side. And either way,
there's some beautiful imagery in there - which, more than anything else, is
what makes this a good poem.



40 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Reed C Bowman said...

'fire-mist': the first four lines are a progression, an evolution as he
says. The fire-mist is the swarm of particles which swirled down
together by mutual gravitation and heated by constant collision and
increasing pressure and condensed to form the planet and the Sun. I
suspect this theory of the formation of the Solar system was just
beginning to enjoy wide circulation when Carruth wrote the poem.


Mallika Chellappa said...

Great Poem. Wondering whether fire-mist could
translate to starcloud?

It is indisputable that there is/are some higher power/s.
When one observes how people of all persuasions achieve
differing degrees of success, one is tempted to subscribe
to the plural. And these powers are not all or always

Martin DeMello said...

Just stumbled across the following pastiche:
[broken link]

Written in 1930, by two authors one of whom is unknown.

Phillip Mather Jr said...

The first stanza of this poem was included in the introductory chapter of the Geology Text, The Citadel ( Charleston ,SC ) used in the early '60' made a profound impression on my Christian mindset, but over the years I had difficulty recalling it word for word, and had given up hope of ever seeing that old text again or even being able to identify it.

Enter Goggle-Search....on one attempt ! Several versions, biography, uses, etc. etc......

Wonder if anyone can put this together, in their only super computer, with ID, and the only known German-Professor-Physic/Math. Department-Head[ Retired ] who says ( in print ) THE BIBLE IS 100 PERCENT ACCURATE SCIENTIFICALLY, ATTACKS EVOLUTION, AND KNOWS MORE BIBLE THAN MOST BIBLE SCHOOLS ! ( There just isn't anyway to codify his scientific knowledge....match wits with him should you dare )

Dr. Werner Gitt, Ph.D. IN THE BEGINNING WAS INFORMATION, should you just happen to speak German, I estimate his web pages to exceed 5,000......books, sermons, teachings, preaching, science, his life, and his love for the world's creator-sustainer, and only, ( by Christ's own words, life, and reason'd-etre...FREE TO CHOOSE, YOURSELF-NO BEHEADER'S KNIFE-TENDER-PERSUASION ! ) , hope of a home in heaven....JESUS CHRIST.

EVEN HEAVEN WOULD BE HELL TO SOMEONE WHO DIDN'T WISH TO BE THERE........heard spoke by Dr. Ravi Zacharias < >

Respectfully submitted,

phil r. mather, jr.

PS, anyone heard of the new R.A.T.E. study showing Radioactivity to only substantiate THOUSANDS NOT BILLIONS ( OF YEARS !!! )

a fire-mist and a planet...................a crystal............and ..............a .........cell......

mickey92605 said...

I read this poem Each in his own Tongue today December 2, 2005. I
learned the poem when I was in college as young pledgee going through a
sorority. It has taken me 38 years to find the poem again. It brought back
some fond memories until I reached the last stanza. For me God isin
everything and then we are in such awe that we cease to speak. We then
learn to just live life andBe, not try to plan everything because we then no
longer exist.Peace,Diane K. Killion. My e-mail address is.

Revdmart said...

Hello Diane
Just read your comments written in 2005 about WH Carruth's poem.
I use it quite often in the Unitarian Church where I minister in Portsmouth
I hope all goes well with you and that you are still enjoying the God that
is all around us - I'm with you on that
Peace and blessings
Martin Whitell (Rev'd)

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