Speak Gently

Original Text: 
The Poetical Works of David Bates, ed. Stockton Bates (Philadelphia: Claxton, Remsen, and Haffelfinger, 1870): 18-19. Wesleyan University Library
2    To rule by love, than fear --
3Speak gently -- let not harsh words mar
4    The good we might do here!
5Speak gently! -- Love doth whisper low
6    The vows that true hearts bind;
7And gently Friendship's accents flow;
8    Affection's voice is kind.
9Speak gently to the little child!
10    Its love be sure to gain;
11Teach it in accents soft and mild: --
12    It may not long remain.
13Speak gently to the young, for they
14    Will have enough to bear --
15Pass through this life as best they may,
16    'T is full of anxious care!
17Speak gently to the aged one,
18    Grieve not the care-worn heart;
19The sands of life are nearly run,
20    Let such in peace depart!
21Speak gently, kindly, to the poor;
22    Let no harsh tone be heard;
23They have enough they must endure,
24    Without an unkind word!
25Speak gently to the erring -- know,
26    They may have toiled in vain;
27Perchance unkindness made them so;
28    Oh, win them back again!
29Speak gently! -- He who gave his life
30    To bend man's stubborn will,
31When elements were in fierce strife,
32    Said to them, "Peace, be still."
33Speak gently! -- 't is a little thing
34    Dropped in the heart's deep well;
35The good, the joy, which it may bring,
36    Eternity shall tell.


1] Parodied by Lewis Carroll in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1866): 84-85, "Speak roughly to your little boy." Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.