[Temple Outer Court]George Herbert: "The Church-porch"

Day 26: Evening


If thou be Master-gunner, spend not all

That thou canst speak, at once; but husband it,

And give men turns of speech: do not forestall

By lavishnesse thine own, and others wit,

   As if thou mad'st thy will. A civil guest

   Will no more talk all, then eat all the feast.

     If you are a master gunner, do not speak all that you can say at once. Nurse it and give others their turn to speak. By excess [talking] do not cancel your own and the wit of others, as if you made your [last] will [disposing of all you have]. A courteous guest will no more talk all than eat all the feast.

     Monologue takes over when a person has a lot to say, but conversation is not a lecture. There are others involved in the communication. When the subject is interesting, people get involved. One person may become so intense that he/she tries to say everything he knows and feels about the subject. He may even be an authority, knowledgeable on part or even all of the category. He wants to improve the conversation with what he knows and his opinions about the information he contributes to the group. He may take over the conversation with good and unselfish reasons, but he changes the conversation to monologue leaving no one else to contribute, nothing else to say.

     Conversation should be a mutual pleasure, enjoyed by everyone present. It should be shared in the talking and the listening. It is best when each person has a chance to speak and offer his/her contribution to the subject. No one should dominate and say everything he/she has to say. You are not making your will in which you have to cover all the relevant information and intend to have the last word. You are not speaking a monograph on the subject. This is conversation, communication, a social pleasure, not a competition or field for domination. Listen and learn what others know and think. Conversation is a feast. No one should take it all.

© 1997 J. R. Arner

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