In our French translation in school was the story of a rich man who was giving a great feast; he instructed his steward to prepare the very best things to be found. The day arrived, and the menu consisted of tongues served in every conceivable form. Another feast was forthcoming and the steward was instructed to provide the very worst things to be found-again he served tongues. Interrogated as how tongues were both the best things and the worst things, the steward explained that nothing in the world could do more good, and nothing in the world could do more harm.
The human tongue can voice prayer and praise, or anger and anathema. “Keep the door of my lips,” wrote the Psalmist. Shakespeare said, “While thou livest, keep a good tongue in thy head.” Pope said, “There is but one way I know of: conversing safely with all men, that is by not concealing what we say or do; by saying or doing nothing that deserves to be concealed.”
The Arabs have a proverb. “More than one war has been caused by the tongue,” and another which runs thus, “The tongue of the wise man is silent in his mouth-the foolishness of the fool spills from the tip of his tongue.” The Chinese say “Good words upon the tongue are like pearls upon a string.” The French admonish, “Listen much, speak little; say nothing that will cause regret.” The Irish assert, “A silent mouth is beautiful.”
In the great epistle of James, we read, “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boast great things. Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity; so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is on fire of hell. But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil full of deadly poison.”
Most of us probably give our tongues too much exercise-it might be a good plan to give them a holiday more frequently; a great talk is pretty sure to say many rather foolish things, sooner or later, and, as some one has said,
“Runaway speech is the sure sign of a runaway mind.” (Adapted).