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The discussion and analysis presented after these translated stanzas is our opinion.  Read the translations for yourself and our analysis, but also seek out varied sources and come to your own conclusions.


Auden & Taylor:

Wise is he not who is never silent,
Mouthing meaningless words:
A glib tongue that goes on chattering
Sings to its own harm.


Often he speaks | who never is still
With words that win no faith;
The babbling tongue, | if a bridle it find not,
Oft for itself sings ill.


Too many unstable words are spoken
by him who ne'er holds his peace;
the hasty tongue sings its own mishap
if it be not bridled in.


He who never shuts up
blathers powerless staves.
The speedy tongue that never stops
often brings itself harm.


Much at random oft rambles he
whose tongue does ever tattle;
a talker's tongue, unless tamed it be,
will often work him woe.


A man who speaks and is never silent
is bound to blunder;
a ready tongue, if it's not restrained,
will do you damage.


He utters too many
futile words
who is never silent;
a garrulous tongue,
if it be not checked,
sings often to its own harm.


We've all know that person who just cannot stop blabbering about nothing.  They talk and talk, but really they are saying nothing useful.  They are careless with their words.  They lack boundaries regarding what to bring up and not bring up.  They seem to be talking purely to hear themselves talk...or because silence makes them anxious.  Regardless the reason, lines 1 and 2 are describing how unwise it is to be one of these rambling blatherers.

Lines 3 and 4 go a bit further, and asign consequences to being such a person.  Careless unchecked chattering about anything and everything can lead directly to harm for the person with the loose tongue.  Perhaps they will reveal information that hurts their reputation or the reputation of someone that trusts them.  Perhaps they will anger someone, and thus make enemies or be physically confronted with violence.  Perhaps they will hurt someone's feelings or lose friends through misspoken words.  But, one way or another, an fool's loose tongue will bring them harm sooner or later.

This stanza continues a theme we have seen in previous stanzas.  There is this idea that you must be wise enough to know when to talk and when to listen.  You must choose carefully the timing and content of your speech, if you are wise and wish to be seen as wise.  And probably most important is the idea that when in doubt, silence might be your best choice.

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