The Tongue

“The boneless tongue, so small and weak,
Can crush and kill,” declared the Greek.
“The tongue destroys a greater horde,”
The Turk asserts, “than does the sword.”
The Persian proverb wisely saith,
“A lengthy tongue—an early death.”
Or sometimes takes this form instead:
“Don’t let your tongue cut off your head!”
“The tongue can speak a word whose speed,”
Says the Chinese, “outstrips the steed.”
While Arab sage doth this impart:
“The tongue’s great storehouse is the heart.”
From Hebrew wit the maxim sprung,
“Though feet should slip, ne’er let the tongue.”
The sacred writer crowns the whole,
“Who keeps his tongue doth keep his soul.”

—Philip Burrows Strong