Words whether written, spoken, or sung have power on many levels. Shakespeare’s speech from Henry V (1599), spoken by Olivier 1944 or Branagh 1989, can not fail to stir our emotions.
“This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whilst any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”
Shakespeare’s words were meant to be spoken. He honed and polished his words, did not rush them out, spoke them out, savoured each syllable, tested their intonation, volume, meter and thought about their affect upon his audience.
This epic speech is repeatedly paraphrased in films* and plays: ‘In which we serve’ 1942, ‘Independence day’ 1996, ‘Return of the King’ 2003, even Lord Horatio Nelson used it about his officers, ‘band of brothers’, before the Battle of the Nile in 1798. These words still resonate as powerfully today as they did 400 years ago.
Words are negative, positive or passive and you don’t have to be Shakespeare to stir hearts, parents are overcome with joy at the first words of their children Dada, Mama, even the negative No!
The spoken words can build up or knock down, words can hurt, disturb, comfort or reassure. ‘The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit’. Proverbs 15: 4
We speak to ourselves, to inanimate objects, our families, friends and strangers. Often we speak because we feel we must fill, or cannot bear, the silence.
We use the spoken word so casually; everyday, common place, ten-a-penny, run of the mill, ubiquitous words, not really thinking about their affect, the good or harm that they may do. Words that can drop like acid rain to blight confidence or like the gentle rain from heaven upon the parched ground of the hopeless.
We have all said words we regret, words where we had not considered their impact upon the hearer. Our brains disengaged but our mouths still speak – firing out words like a machine gun spitting out bullets; crushing spirits, feelings, confidence, hope. “Stupid, hopeless, hate you, don’t care!” The destructive power of words.
Where we would, if we could, clasp our hands across our mouths to stop the words escaping or to cram them back in. ‘A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger’. Proverbs 15:1
Words that speak affirmation, appreciation, praise bring a flowering at the deepest level.
‘The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook’. Proverbs 18:4